Brent Council deny claims Kensal Rise library was stripped of its books today to prevent it from being reopened

This morning was chosen as new council leader will be sworn in hours later, Lib Dem councillor says

Claims that attempts to strip an axed library branch of it books was carried out today to stop the new council leader from reversing the decision has been denied.

Cllr Paul Lorber, leader of Brent’s Lib Dems, has accused Cllr James Powney, who oversaw the closures, of speeding up the process to scupper any hopes of Kensal Rise library being reopened.

Angry campaigners have gathered outside the site in Bathurst Gardens since 7.30am after removal men turned up to empty the building of its contents.

Cllr Muhammad Butt is due to be sworn in as the new leader this evening after he ousted Cllr Ann John OBE from her position last Saturday.

Saying that the timing of today’s events were deliberately chosen, Cllr Lorber told the Times: “This is a kick in the teeth for local residents, who have demonstrated their opposition to the library closure plan at every opportunity.

“It would have been appropriate to pause the process until library campaigners had a chance to meet the new council leader.

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“Inevitably this will lead to speculation that Cllr John and Cllr Powney wanted to empty the library and get rid of the building quickly to make any change in policy as difficult as possible.”

However, Cllr James Powney, lead member for environment and neighbourhoods, told the Times that the move was always going to happen and Cllr Butt had always backed the closures.

He said: The date has no significance, I am not sure when the exact time was agreed but to wait until after Cllr Butt has been made leader would not make sense as he has been part of the executive that has backed the library closures all the way.

“These books and facilities will now be transferred to other libraries.

The picturesque Victorian building, which was opened by American author Mark Twain in 1900, was one of six closed by Brent Council last year alongside Barham, Neasden, Preston, Cricklewood and Tokyngton libraries to save �1million.

Campaigners took the case to the High Court to try and stop the closures but a judge ruled in the council’s favour and they were axed last October.

The sites housing Kensal Rise and Cricklewood library are owned by All Soul’s College in Oxford.

Last month the council handed the buildings back to the college despite pleas from the community to allow them to run the libraries themselves.