Libraries in Brent could be privatised as part of £54m cuts

Harlesden Library

Harlesden Library - Credit: Archant

Libraries in Brent could be privatised as part of council plans to save £54miillion – three years after they closed six branches in the borough.

Kilburn Library

Kilburn Library - Credit: Archant

Under proposals by the town hall, Ealing Road, Harlesden, Kilburn, Kingsbury, Wembley and Willesden Green Library Centre will be handed over to an outside organisation.

The council is hoping a charity will agree to manage the libraries as their status makes them eligible for an 80 per cent rebate on business rate, this would save the town hall £160,000.

However other tenders from private operators would be considered.

The news has come as a surprise to a library campaigner who fought to save her local branch in Kensal Rise.

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The site was closed alongside branches in Barham, Cricklewood, Preston, Neasden, and Tokyngton libraries were in 2011 to save the council £1m.

Margaret Bailey, chair of Friends of Kensal Rise Library, a group set up to fight the closure, said: “Libraries, like many other services, should not be subjected to notions of profit or market forces and privatising often results in costing more.

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“Savings made on the 80 per cent rebate will be minimal and certainly not enough justification for privatising the service. I wish local authorities would fight these cuts together - and harness the support of their communities to do this.”

Paul Lorber, a former Liberal Democrat councillor and a volunteer for Friends of Barham Library, said: “They were talking about a trust to save on the business rate. Quite frankly the library service has been so decimated that I don’t think that will make a lot of difference.”

However Cllr James Denselow, Brent Council’s lead member for stronger communities, denied the libraries would be privatised.

He said: “This is finding a management structure rather than privatising our libraries. We are looking into transfer as it saves us a huge amount of money with rate changes.”

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