Brent library campaigners lose court bid against closures

Protesters outside Kensal Rise Library Protesters gathered as workmen arrived to board up Kensal Rise library

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Campaigners have lost their High Court bid to save six libraries in north-west London which were marked for closure to cut council spending.

Brent Council announced plans to shut half of its libraries in April.

Brent SOS Libraries sought the judicial review, arguing the decision failed to assess local needs and the impact of the closures.

The council confirmed the libraries had been closed following Thursday's ruling and were "being made secure".

The authority's lawyers had argued the decision was "rational".

A Brent Council spokeswoman said "all the six libraries which the executive decided to close in April are now closed, and are being made secure" after protesters reported that libraries were being "boarded" and "locked-up".

Protesters 'shocked'

About 150 protesters gathered outside Kensal Rise library to demonstrate against the decision.

Brent Libraries SOS campaign spokeswoman Margaret Bailey said: "At about 14:00 BST builders arrived who wanted to board up the windows and doors.

"But they were reluctant to cross the protest line."

At the scene

Campaigners for libraries outside the court

The dust had barely settled on the High Court's decision to rubber stamp the closure of six north-west London libraries.

And yet within hours their doors were padlocked and the services looked lost for good.

Following the decision, the head of the Brent Libraries SOS campaign, Margaret Bailey, urged the council to "take time" to close the doors.

But by lunchtime the large wooden doors at Kensal Rise Library were padlocked. Shortly after, workmen moved in to board up the building.

As they did about 100 protesters gathered, among them schoolchildren, chanting "save our library".

The police were called, but despite their pleas the protesters refused to budge.

Even as the light begins to fade, they remain there.

Ms Bailey said the protesters were "shocked that the council had moved so quickly" to close the libraries "before the protesters had had a chance to launch an appeal".

"We are determined to appeal," she added.

The case was being seen as a test case for other campaigners across the UK fighting to keep 400 libraries open.

Mr Justice Ouseley ruled there was no evidence to support the serious allegations made against the authority.

John Halford, solicitor for the campaigners, said: "Today's judgement means that half of Brent's libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally."

Councillor Ann John, leader of the Labour-run council, said: "We are pleased that the judge, having carefully considered all the complaints, has found in the council's favour on each and every one."

The council wanted to close the libraries in Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Tokyngton, Preston, Cricklewood and Neasden by September.

Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, Sarah Teather, who is also Minister of State for Children and Families, said: "Local residents have made their opinions clear - they want the libraries to stay open and are willing to fight to make that happen - it is a real shame that Labour-run Brent Council are refusing to listen."

Celebrities such as playwright Alan Bennett, singer Nick Cave and the bands Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp had backed the campaign, with many contributing to the costs.

Helen Mountfield QC, for the residents, argued Brent Council had adopted "a fundamentally flawed and unlawful approach to the making of savings in its budget" and the local authority had failed to comply with equality legislation and consult the local community properly.

But council lawyers said the decision was "rational, made with great care and was based on a full appreciation of the obligation to act within the law" and the judge ruled in the authority's favour.

Leader of Brent Council Ann John: ''Libraries flourish best in busy places''

Ms John said: "It means we can push ahead with our exciting plans to improve Brent's library service and offer a 21st Century service for the benefit of all our residents."

Ms Bailey said: "We believe that there are important points of principle at stake which an appeal court will decide differently.

"Our campaign will redouble its efforts to expose the senselessness of Brent Council's decision to close half of its libraries."

Paul Lorber, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, said: "We are determined to save our libraries in Brent irrespective of what the Labour administration is doing."

The Department for Culture Media and Sport said it was considering the judgement.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    A terrible comment on our times but I expected nothing less to be honest. Libraries don't make money,thats all there is to it,its all that matters these days. Very sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I exhibit no surprises, this is absolutely ludicrous.
    Clearly, the government knows the price of everything but, the value of NOTHING!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Whats the next step for this gov burn all books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    100's of comments acting like this is the end of the world and that there is no where in Brent for people to go read newspapers and books or people to access the internet for free.

    NOTE: There are 6 other libraries in Brent, including "Willesden Green Library Centre" which is one of the best in London. Also the Town Hall Library will make way a huge library in the new Civil Centre

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Surely the point the courts are making is that it is through the voting booth that people should protest against these sorts of things rather than a court of law - saying something is legal isn't saying it is good, just that there is no law against it happening. Maybe if local elections were used as more than a referendum on the current national government we would have better local governance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I don't understand why my comment, which simply suggested that Brent Council might have it's eyes on selling off the buildings for a quick buck, was removed, while other comments directly alleging corruption are allowed.
    If they do go ahead and do this, in years to come they'll still have an equivalent budget deficit but the assets will be gone forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    It's sad that the Government is taking our center of knowledge away from our towns. I spent a large majority of my childhood in the local Library in Stockport, which I miss greatly since I moved away.

    My local library now is having a massive cut, there are less books on the shelves and humans have been replaced with machines that check your books out. What will happen to human interaction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    The country can’t afford all these subsidised and free services. If these campaigners want to keep Libraries open what about paying the going rate to use the service. I don’t use Libraries so why should I pay for someone else’s book? I pay for my Kindle and download’s. Everyone should pay their own way or at least something and maybe the country would not be in this mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    Just in case anyone has forgotten this, Libraries are about far more than lending fiction. I defy anybody to find me a copy of the historic documents in my local library reference section on Amazon, or online generally.

    And web browsing generally fails to teach any useful social skills the way interaction with REAL people does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Can anyone out there think of better ways for Brent council to spend £70k of residents money on defending this ridiculous court case?

    So a few Libraries are closing. So what? There are far more important thinks to be worried about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    To those who say "the digital age is here, dinosaurs should get iPads" etc, what about the children of single parents who live on, or in many cases below the 'bread line'? How will they improve their literacy and chances? Or does poverty mean you're not entitled to read and learn?

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Libraries attributes include
    Poor and/or elderly - can't afford to pay Amazon for books and may not have access to computer
    Green - books are read multiple times
    Social cohesion - a public space shared by rich and poor
    Social mobility - anonymous & free opportunity for adults who struggled at school to catch up, or for disadvantaged kids to experience a different positive environment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Still lets look on the bright side by keeping people illiterate and unable to read or write it means they will not be able to find out what this coalition is getting up to won't it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    236. wressleturbine

    Has anyone asked the question of how much money each library has to generate to be viable.
    Surely, faced with the prospect of closure or paying a small charge most would pay?
    you can't quantify the value of a library. But that value - the value of an educated population - is definitely there, and Britain badly needs an educated population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    I use our village library, where I also volunteered for a year. It's the only community service catering for all age groups (regulars range from 3 to 93 years of age), and interests, tastes and needs - including large-print and newspapers. The terminals are used by children - not everyone has a home computer. Frequent exhibitions maintain interest. Happily, its not under threat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    while not a bad idea in and of itself perhaps you should consider what the logical conclusion of such a move would be under the tories.
    A little charge to cover costs, becomes a slightly larger one to cover future expense, becomes a profit generating machine privatised for the benefit of their rich mates with the middle and working classes once again funding their greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    To those saying Amazon has replaced need for libraries...
    Ordering off Amazon tends to be a very direct process (you know in advance what you want, you search, find and pay).
    But think about that for a moment; this means most books are at some level, someone elses suggestions.
    Browsing in a library (or bookshop) is a much freer process, widens perspective and access.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Lots of comments on here blaming the Tories when it's a Labour council choosing to close their libraries rather than addressing the huge non-value add waste that all councils create. A shame that Labour are using this to make political capital rather than addressing the financial mess they helped to create

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    well done Brent, what forward thinking, what next? close 50% of the schools? You never were the most admired council and never will be with such daft,short term measures to save a few quid. If the libraries were renamed "one-stop-shop-on-how to-claim-benefits-and -asylum" they would receive EXTRA funding......

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    238. Paul

    as much as it pains me to say it, the residents of the area are the architects of their own problem. For every person who has used it in the last week, how many hundreds have not? The library is a casualty of an anti-intelligence culture
    then let's counter that culture rather than pander to it


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