Ex Waterstone’s boss slams Brent Council’s plans to close 6 libraries

Tim Coates said the council can save �1million by cutting back office costs

The former Waterstone’s boss has slammed Brent Council’s plans to axe half its libraries while hanging on to �1million a year for back office costs.

Tim Coates told a fiery meeting of campaigners at Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens, Kensal Rise, that the cherished reading rooms can be saved by slashing spending on non core services including development, outreach and support.

Instead, Mr Coates proposed devolving budget responsibility to a chief librarian in each of the 12 reading rooms, which he claims would eliminate bureaucratic costs and prevent town hall ‘empire building’.

He told the Times: “It is amazing to come to a building that is so beautiful. How anyone could imagine that you would shut a place like this is beyond a joke.

“The council spends �1m in bureaucracy when they should be investing it in the libraries themselves. They shouldn’t shut libraries when they have the alternative of cutting back office costs.”

Mr Coates is a vehement critic of library closures and has worked with campaigns across the UK to pressure councils into keeping them open.

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His stinging attack come just two weeks before the Labour-run council will make the final decision over whether to shut reading rooms in Kensal Rise, Cricklewood, Neasden, Tokyngton, Preston Road and Barham Park. Cash-strapped town hall bosses say this wills save �1m a year.

Assessing the anti closure campaign in Brent, he said: “It is a difficult campaign. In London, we have only two or three boroughs which are still holding out – Brent is one Lewisham is another.

“Other councils have all backed away from closing so many libraries because they are aware of the negative publicity. Brent has dug itself into a hole, but it will back down.”

Attacking Tim Coates’ figures as ‘top line’ and superficial’, cllr James Powney (Lab: Kensal Green), lead member for culture, said: “He has put forward a completely partial set of figures without any explanation.

“He seems to have thought that we haven’t thought about our strategy, but we have, long and hard.”

Refuting allegations of ‘empire building’ at the town hall, he added: “We have gone through a reorganisation and huge savings programme which has included a dramatic reduction in employees. It is an empire reduction scheme.”