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
    0

    Comment number 300.

    Several points from a retired librarian: 1. The Public Libraries Act of 1964 requires local authorities in England to provide a library service. It does not unfortunately define what is meant by that.
    2. The definition "a place to keep books" existed well before public libraries. It was always an out of date concept:
    The biggest losers will be the poorest sections of society.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 299.

    I take back my previous remark. It's actually the right way round and the right way up. I hope Mr Peston's one does the same. Sorry beeb.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 298.

    Ha Ha the lousy software the beeb uses for these blogs has gobe upside down as well as back to front. The digital age, don't you just love it? Oh wow, and you can only post once every ten minutes too. LOL

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 297.

    Try research or translation using a Kindle and you will soon realise the value of a book. Sadly the bourgeois public ae convinced it's the holy grail.. You can tell by the way the price of some out of print paperbacks has rocketed that they will never be reprinted. Closing libraries is an act of cultural vandalism, but culture is nothing compared with bits of paper called money is it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 296.

    With regards to all the ignorant comments that have been posted that state libraries are outmoded; you're very ignorant. Apart from IT access they provide adult & youth services such as education & advice. The're also a cultural hub for people to meet up & arguably most important of all introduce children to books & the written word.

    Pre school kids don't use PC's & kindles.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 295.

    290. Colin
    1 HOUR AGO
    Raymond, give up. You can't grasp a basic understanding of my statement.
    ___
    Too true, I can't, but there are many posters here that seem to think that a library service has an intrinsic value that cannot be counted by money alone, though admittedly, it's not likely to be run on fresh air. I would argue that value remains even if every library in the country was to close.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 294.

    So now we lose our libraries, This is totally unfair to the public. It is the one facility that is highly appreciated for many reasons, social, academic,reference,community,information. So many uses and so well used, and decisions to close them are irresponsible. We should not have to fight for this facility when it is needed by all residents, schools and colleges,all ages.Shame on you.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 293.

    As somebody who works in the public library service in N. London albeit not Brent; my message is simple. Closing down libraries is criminal & is just as heinous as shutting down a hospital or school.

    Libraries provide a whole host of services apart from just book lending. In this day & age access to the internet is crucial, but for a lot of the unemployed this isn't possible due to the cost.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 292.

    Many comments refer to the internet as a the new source of information and say this together with e-books makes libraries obsolete. What has not been pointed out is that while the internet holds a wealth of information, there is equally are more misinformation. The trained librarian is a valuable resource enabling students to carry out academically sound research from valid primary sources.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 291.

    289. Karen

    That's the point of the Big Society. The Police are made redundant so you have to grab a flak jacket and deal with the gun toting kids yourself while Cameron hides in No. 10 saying "I didn't ask them to do that" and avoiding the blame whilst collecting a £197K pay packet for doing nothing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 290.

    Raymond, give up. You can't grasp a basic understanding of my statement.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 289.

    I live in Brent. We have just found out our Council tax has increased by 50%, our rubbish is now being collected every two weeks (yes...nice) and our libraries are now closing. Kids on bicycles are shooting innocent people down the road... The future of British society (yes... the Big Society) is looking grim folks.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 288.

    There is only one demographic to blame for this - those people who voted Conservative. The cuts have been determined by Central Government and the councils have to let go of those services that are either not cost effective or are used by less people. If you have a complaint the number 10 email address is available on the number 10 website.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 287.

    I was brought up in a poor working class household. I worked my way up the social ladder thanks to going to a local grammar school and having the run of a good local library. Alas, both of those advantages seem to be being to be denied to children today.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 286.

    You hopefully have noticed the meely mouthed opportunistic comments of the LibDam representative, blaming the Labour council for having to make cuts in the face of the cuts in finance sanctioned by the tories and backed by the once in lifetime ( I hope) power grubbing libdams. May they rot in oblivion after the next election.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 285.

    Libraries are more than just books and severely restricted internet access. They are a focal point for the local community. With this government championing localism it seems ridiculous that councils are doing the exacy opposite in seeking to centralise services.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 284.

    Judicial review means that the judges will review the procedures which the council used to reach its decision: it's not about whether the council is entitled to close the libraries. A clever authority will simply make sure that all of its procedures tick the right boxes, and it will have explanations in place for the court which are 'reasonable'. Hence, don't expect too much from judicial review.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 283.

    81. Colin
    19 MINUTES AGO
    you are struggling to understand. if it is being funded (or paid for), then it has a value. if it isnt, it doesn't.
    ___
    Does this mean that all the voluntary work people do, including library work, has no value? I'd like to think otherwise.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 282.

    You're right, Colin. I don't understand. My fault, perhaps. Just the same, I'm glad I live in a country where the question of withholding funding from the library service simply does not arise. The question of willingness does not enter the equation.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 281.

    you are struggling to understand. if it is being funded (or paid for), then it has a value. if it isnt, it doesn't.

 

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