Brent Council spent �600,000 on two libraries months before earmarking them for closure
Parents and cuts campaigners warn the council against shutting libraries
COUNCIL chiefs spent more than �600,000 on refurbishing two libraries – just months before announcing plans to close them, the Times can reveal
Brent Council forked out an eye watering �360,000 on major renovation works in Neasden library last year and Barham Park library reopened two months ago, after undergoing a �245,000 transformation.
Following the six-figure makeovers, Neasden library now boasts more books and DVDs and a new self service checkout, it also underwent an expansion project and Barham Park now hosts state-of-the art IT facilties and a creche.
The scale of the spend was revealed just days after the Times reported that the council is proposing to close half the borough’s libraries.
If the proposals go ahead, the two libraries and four others in Kensal Rise, Cricklewood, Tokyngton and Preston, could shut for good.
But the controversial plans have been met with a wall of opposition from library users, who claim the move would damage early years education and tear the heart out of their communities.
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Sarah Cox, a former teacher at Newfield Primary School in Harlesden, joined many others in a protest at the planned cuts outside the town hall.
She said: “It is a real pity to close these libraries that were so recently done up.
“It seems like an awful waste of money. It is like the Kilburn College, which is being sold despite only just being opened, it is a real scandal that money can be spent on education resources which are now being closed.
“This is a false economy but unfortunately, I think we will see more decisions like this being made because of the cuts.”
Speaking during a tense council meeting at which the executive approved plans to launch an official consultation into the closures, David Butcher, a father-of-two, urged councillors to keep library doors open.
Mr Butcher, who lives with his two young sons in Burrows Road, Kensal Rise, said: “Closing them when they have spent this much money on doing them up seems crazy.
“The closure of these well-loved libraries would be a terrible mistake.
“They are incredibly important in the battle to prise school age children away from the television, and to close them would be a tragic and irreversible step backwards.”
Phil O’Reily, branch secretary at Unison, the largest public sector trade union, claimed council bosses had failed to inform her of the plans, despite the union having many members working in the libraries earmarked for closure.
Cllr Ann John, leader of Brent Council, said closing libraries was ‘the third worst thing a council could do’ behind shutting schools, but budgetary pressures and falling usage left them with few options.
She said: “We are open to ideas from residents and community groups as to how we retain the important educational role of these buildings.”
Will the proposed closures have a detrimental effect on your life? If so call the newsdesk on 020 7433 6244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org