Brent Labour Party at war over library cuts

Chairman of the Kensal Green ward warns that the cuts are the most toxic issue for the party since the Iraq war

A row has broken out within Brent Labour Party over the unpopular decision of the leadership to axe half the borough’s libraries.

Mike Phipps, chairman of Kensal Green ward Labour group, said the controversial closures were the ‘most toxic political issue for the party sine the Iraq war.

He said: “There is real anger about these closures. It is not what people joined the party for and it is not what people in the party campaigned for party candidates for.

“Closing libraries is a panic decision. These weren’t the cuts which needed to be made and I think they have alienated Labour’s own volunteers and members as well as Brent voters generally.”

Mr Phipps, whose local library in Kensal Rise is one of six due to close in June, warned that Cllr James Powney (Lab: Kensal Green), who as lead member for culture was instrumental in fronting the controversial cuts, could pay with his seat.

He said: “I think it is inevitable that James Powney will be held personally responsible for the way he has handled these closures.

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“Twenty years ago this was one of the safest Labour wards in the borough but that is no longer true. If he alienates people over issues like this word will get around.

“If the candidates’ selection process was tomorrow there would be real opposition to continuing with the existing candidates.”

“The tragedy would be that the Liberal Democrats would benefit when it is their government pushing through these cuts.

In a scathing attack on the library consultation, Mr Phipps, who has been a part branch member for 20 years, added: “I don’t think the consultation was undertaken seriously and I don’t think that the process whereby local groups were invited to put their ideas forward to rescue the library was taken seriously either.”

Some 82 per cent of residents who took part in the consultation said they didn’t want the libraries to close, and residents launched a number of popular campaigns to save them.

Despite this opposition the Labour executive voted unanimously to close reading rooms in Kensal Rise, Cricklewood, Preston, Neasden, Tokyngton and Barham Park.

Cllr James Powney said: “Mike has a long history of denouncing politicians.

“The policy results in a majority of existing library users having a significantly enhanced service and in two or three year’s time more people will use Brent’s libraries and take books out.”