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Library campaigners consider legal action against Brent Council

PUBLISHED: 10:36 10 March 2011 | UPDATED: 10:36 10 March 2011

Protesters demonstrate outside Brent town hall as the council pass a budget with some £42million worth of cuts

Protesters demonstrate outside Brent town hall as the council pass a budget with some £42million worth of cuts

jan nevill

Campaigners say the consultation has been ‘misleading’ and urge council chiefs to relaunch it afresh

Library campaigners are considering legal action against Brent Council over its ‘flawed’ consultation to close half the borough’s reading rooms.

In a letter seen by the Times, they accuse the Labour-run authority of ‘misleading’ residents over visitor numbers and claim the decision to slash the libraries budget five days before formal consultation ended ‘made the consultation process redundant’.

The letter, signed by Margaret Bailey, co-chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library and agreed with campaigners for the other five threatened reading rooms states: “In law, what is proposed and the consequences must be sufficiently clear to enable those who are being consulted to make a proper, informed response.

“The proposals [Brent Council] have made fail this basic test. Critical information is missing. In many respects they are inaccurate and in some respects they are positively misleading.

“Information about the number of visits to each library is inaccurate as it does not take into account large groups or different opening hours.”

It goes on: “In contrast to well established practice on equality, no impact assessment has been produced to accompany the proposals so as to enable the community to understand and respond to the real impact their implementation will have.”

“This is not a fair consultation process that has been completed.”

The stinging attack comes as Sue McKenzie, head of libraries, admitted to campaigners in an email seen by the Times that the council had made errors when calculating how many people visited the reading rooms – key in determining which libraries should be closed.

She said: “Library visits are counted by electronic sensors situated at library entrances. Our visitor figures therefore include everyone who comes into a library.

“The visitor figure for Ealing Road is correct, the Kingsbury one was an error and should be 205,283

“Harlesden Library figures are estimated because the library was closed for refurbishment during 2009/10.”

Consultation on the closures ended last Friday, however, Brent Council voted to chop more than £400,000 from the libraries budget several days earlier, sparking criticisms from campaigners that the decision had effectively been made.

Priya Shah, of the Save Preston Library Campaign, said: “We are pursuing legal action and we are asking the council to review the consultation as it is extremely flawed.”

Brent’s executive will decide in April whether to close the six libraries in Kensal Rise, Tokyngton, Barham Park, Cricklewood, Preston, and Neasden.

A council spokesman said: “Brent Council has conducted a detailed and extensive consultation process which it is confident meets legal requirements.

“The council is fully aware of the need to have due regard to its equality duties as required by law and is acting accordingly.”

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