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New ‘libraries’ councillor says community engagement is at the heart of her priorities

PUBLISHED: 14:15 14 May 2013 | UPDATED: 14:15 14 May 2013

Cllr Roxanne Mashari is the new lead member for enviroment and neigbourhoods

Cllr Roxanne Mashari is the new lead member for enviroment and neigbourhoods

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Cllr Roxanne Mashari ousted Cllr James Powney to become the new lead member for environment and neighbourhoods

The councillor who has taken over the responsibility of the borough’s libraries has hailed the approach to reading rooms in Camden and said “community engagement” in Brent will be at the heart of her priorities.

Cllr Roxanne Mashari became the new lead member for environment and neighbourhoods after ousting Cllr James Powney on Saturday.

The Welsh Harp councillor said Camden set a “very good example” in their approach to library services.

While Camden Council handed control of three buildings to community groups and provided them with transitional funding to help them run their libraries Brent refused to do so.

Instead community groups had to form their own ‘pop-up’ libraries when six branches were axed in October 2011.

Cllr Mashari claimed it would be “reckless” to reveal firm policies until she had discussed budget implications with council officers but said she would be considering all options.

She said: “What happened in Camden is a very good example of what can be done when public and voluntary sectors work together and is something it would be fantastic to emulate.”

On engaging with campaigners, she added: “I am completely open to community engagement which is at the heart of my beliefs.

“In the coming days and weeks I will be sitting down and going through everything with a fine-toothed comb and will be shortly be making announcements.”

Cllr Powney, who oversaw the closures during his tenure, had become increasingly unpopular among library campaigners in the borough particularly his own Kensal Green ward.

The ward is home to Kensal Rise Library which was infamously raided of its contents at 3am in the morning last year. The council then handed back control to the original land owners All Souls College in Oxford and campaigners are now fighting to save the building from being converted into flats.

The other libraries which were closed in the £1million cost-cutting exercise were Barham, Preston, Tokyngton, Neasden and Cricklewood.

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