Crunch talks to save Kensal Rise library

Campaigners hope to develop the library as a children’s and arts space

Campaigners are in crunch talks with council chiefs to put together a business plan to rescue a popular library from closure.

The Save Kensal Rise Library campaign has met with Cllr James Powney (Lab: Kensal Green), lead member for culture, and libraries head Sue McKenzie, to propose that plans to shut it are put on ice while residents come up with a rescue scheme.

At a packed public meeting last Thursday (27) to discuss the campaign, the committee revealed it had talked about the community developing Kensal Rise as a children’s and arts space, while the council continue running the core library service. However, no agreement has yet been reached.

The group are now working up these proposals into a business plan which they will put to the Labour run council before they decide the year’s budget on March 3 – and ask for a period of grace in which they come up with a permanent rescue package.

In a sign that the campaign is gaining momentum, Cllr Powney said he would back the campaign if the business plan is ‘viable’.

David Butcher, co chairman of the campaign, said: “We are working on a business plan that will show Brent a vision of what the library could become and who our local partners will be.

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“Whether that will be enough to get a stay of execution, who knows – it’s up to the council to do their bit.”

However, Mr Butcher warned against assumptions that residents will take over the core running of the library in a Big Society take over.

He said: “The trouble is, Brent thinks volunteers can magically take over running a library, but that’s wishful thinking, it’s not sustainable.

“Brent wants to wash its hands of the library whereas we argue they should keep running the core service, with their costs covered or subsidised by the other stuff we can do in the building. It is not going to be easy.”

Cllr Powney said: “If they come back to us with a viable and convincing case, I would propose cuts elsewhere.”

The campaign to save Kensal Rise library was launched in December after Brent Council announced plans to close it and five others. It estimates the cull will save �1 million.

Consultation on the closures finish on March 4. If they are approved, the reading rooms will shut in April.