Residents make an impassioned plea to ‘save our libraries’

As six libraries face the chop, residents urge the council to reconsider at a tense public meeting

RESIDENTS issued a rallying cry to ‘save our libraries’ at a tense pubic meeting to discuss plans to axe six reading rooms.

Around 50 book lovers gathered at Brent Town Hall to quiz council chiefs over unpopular plans to shut libraries in Kensal Rise, Preston, Cricklewood, Neasden, Barham Park, and Tokyngton.

Passions flared as residents spoke about the ‘crucial’ role libraries play in the community, and urged the council to reconsider.

Graham Durham, a member of the Friend of Cricklewood library, said: “We want all the libraries to stay open.

“If you visit any of these libraries you will find young people studying, mothers teaching their children to read, and the elderly keeping in touch with the world by reading the papers.

“I am ashamed that our council is doing this. We won’t stand for this.”

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The meeting was staged by Brent Council at which Kensal Green cllr James Powney, lead member for culture, gave a presentation entitled Transforming Brent’s libraries in which he outlined the authority’s cost cutting proposals.

Phil O’ Reilly, branch secretary for trade union Unison, revealed that the plans will lead to the loss of between 20 and 25 jobs.

She added: “How can you justify closing these libraries when while you continue to employ consultants and have away days in Buckinghamshire?”

There were calls of foul play from the room, as residents accused the council of a ‘sham consultation’.

Addressing Cllr James Powney, one Neasden library user said: “This meeting is a farce because you are saying there are no other options.

“From what we have heard it seems like it’s a fait accompli.”

Mel Hacker, a regular Preston library user, said: “It is not just a service you are proposing to close, it is a community. Please reconsider.”

Cllr James Powney, Kensal Green ward and lead member for culture, refuted accusations that consultation has been poor, and said the closures were necessary because of ‘the most severe cuts anyone can remember.’

He said: “None of these things are easy and I don’t want to make these brutal cuts. But we have to.”

If the plans go ahead, the six libraries will shut in April.