Brent library cuts a ‘stab in the back’ say campaigners

The council has voted through more than �400,000 worth of cuts to libraries

Campaigners said they felt ‘stabbed in back’ at Brent Council’s decision to add a nail to the coffins of six Brent libraries by voting through deep funding cuts – five days before formal consultation on the closures ends.

The stinging criticism came as the Labour-run Brent Council voted down two budget amendments tabled by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems which would have saved the libraries for at least a year – giving community groups time to come up with rescue packages to save them permanently.

Brent Council has chopped more than �400,000 from the libraries budget, while book lovers are still signing petitions and writing letters to councillors urging them not to cuts half the borough’s libraries, under a consultation which runs until this Friday (March 4).

Phil O’ Shea, a film screenwriter and member of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign who watched from the public gallery as the council voted through the cuts, said he was disappointed by the decision.

He said: “They could have saved the libraries separately from the rest of the budget but they decided not to. We are really upset. We feel we have been stabbed in the back.

“And we were disappointed by the number of councillors who were joking and clowning around, grandstanding, and mocking each other during a debate that will have such serious consequences.”

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Dismissing a motion unanimously passed which expressed sympathy with the library campaigners as ‘just a gesture’ the writer added: “We feel they should have voted a different way tonight, but the fight goes on.”

Under the proposals, which are being decided on in April, reading rooms in Tokyngton, Neasden, Kensal Rise, Cricklewood, Barham Park, and Preston Road will close.

Eric Pollock, chairman of the Friends of Cricklewood Library, said: “I am not a lawyer but I find it strange they if the consultation finishes on the 4th how they can go ahead and cut the budget.

“We certainly don’t want Cricklewood library to close, but how we save it given last night is a puzzle. They have gone ahead as if the deadline has already passed is just crazy.

“It just seems to me that the fact the council have done this last night they have made their minds up.”

He added: “The campaigns to save these libraries have really galvanised the community. Thousands have signed the petitions and as you walk round you find out how people feel and their love of the library. It is true particularly for families but also for the whole community. It is really striking.”

Samantha Warrington from the Save Preston Library campaign said: “It is worrying that Brent councillors voted through the cuts to the library budget without giving due consideration to the needs of local communities. The libraries consultation hasn’t even finished.

And the feeling in the north of the borough is that people don’t want to have to travel to a mega-library at Wembley Stadium - we want local neighbourhood facilities.”

Cllr Ann John (Lab: Stonebridge), Brent Council’s leader, said: “There will be no new money found for the libraries and the campaigners are clear on this.

“There is a vociferous campaign to save Kensal Rise library and it is a covenanted building. If they can come up with a plan at no cost to the council then we will listen. The same goes for Cricklewood. We are listening to all library groups.”