Library opening hours could be slashed by Brent Council

Council should not cut service before judical review, campaigners say

Brent Council has been accused of cutting opening hours at its libraries before the outcome of a judicial review into their closures is made.

Campaigners took the local authority to the High Court last month to challenge its decision to shut half of the borough’s libraries last month.

But even though the judge has said he will not make a decision on the case until October, the council says it may have to reduce opening hours while it awaits the verdict.

Campaigner Samantha Warrington, said:

“We would like clarification on the closures and to find out which libraries could have reduced opening times. Yet again there is no transparency.

“The council is doing a huge disservice to the children who rely on libraries during the holidays. There has been no communication about this with the people who use the libraries which is to be expected. But I do sympathise with the staff.

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“It is interesting that the council is reducing library opening hours which is one of the options library campaigners put the council in the first place.”

The council says that staff was offered voluntary redundancy before the case was brought before the High Court and that even though no voluntary redundancy notices have been issued, some staff are either resigning or retiring at the end of the month.

A spokeswoman said: “The effect of the delay in the judgement has caused a further period of uncertainty for staff and, understandably, some are taking other offers of jobs.

“We may have to reduce hours at some libraries in order to manage this.”

“As staff leave there is less capacity to manage emergencies or short term staff shortages; these will be managed to have as little impact on opening hours as possible.”

The landmark case could set a precedent for other libraries earmarked to close by local authorities across the country.

Since November last year, campaigners have been fighting to save Preston, Barham Park, Tokyngton, Kensal Rise, Cricklewood and Neasden.

Despite 82 per cent of respondents voting against the library closures, the council went ahead with its controversial plans.

An umbrella group, called Brent SOS Libraries, was set up to represent all six of the reading rooms.

If the High Court rules in favour of the council, it is not yet known when the libraries will close.