Liberal Democrat Councillors on Brent Council today slammed Labour proposals to close 6 of Brent’s 12 libraries.
When the Liberal Democrats took power in 2006, they scrapped the plans drawn up under the Labour Administration to close libraries – preferring to develop the library service by making better use of existing buildings and sharing services. Barham library has just reopened after a refurbishment and now also houses a children’s centre and the refurbishment of Harlesden Library saw the BACES learning centre re-located there. Kingsbury library is co-located with a One Stop Shop enabling local residents to access council services easily, without a trip down to the Town Hall.
Now Labour have taken control of Brent Council again however they have revived the original 2004 plans to close libraries. This means that six libraries now face closure: Barham Park, Cricklewood, Neasden, Tokyngton, Kensal Rise and Preston.
Labour are now planning a public consultation on their plans to close libraries (from November 29th 2010 until March 4th 2011) and Liberal Democrats are urging residents who value their local library to respond.
Speaking about Labour’s library closure plans, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Environment and Neighbourhood Services, Cllr Daniel Brown said,
“This is just unbelievable. It’s clear Labour have been waiting 4 years to implement their library closure plans. We kept libraries open, developing them by sharing services with things like children’s centres.
These proposals are nothing to do with reductions in funding; Labour have wanted to close libraries for years. I think a lot of local people are going to be bitterly disappointed to hear this news.”
Residents can sign the petition opposing the library closures here.
A Liberal Democrat Councillor for Sudbury has expressed disappointment at the decision to sell a piece of old allotment land in Elms Garden / Court, Sudbury – despite a vigorous campaign by local residents to keep the area for local use.
Labour run Brent Council will receive a report to its Executive Committee on Monday 15th November which proposes to sell the land to a housing trust to build 27 housing units on the site.
Liberal Democrats are claiming that 27 housing units is too much and would be an overdevelopment of the site. They also slammed the inconsistency in policy regarding residents wishing to keep land for local use.
Only a few months ago a planned sale of a similar piece of land a housing association in a ward represented by 3 Labour Councillors, all 3 of whom just happen to also sit on the Labour Executive, was stopped after pressure from local residents. Liberal Democrats are arguing that it is reasonable to expect that this approach will be applied consistently to other pieces of land in other parts of Brent where local residents make a similar claim.
The residents of Elms Gardens, Elms Court and Elms Park Avenue Wembley would like the old allotment land in their area reinstated to allotments/open space and have submitted a petition to Councillor Jim Moher and his Executive. The old Labour Government changed the rules to allow building houses on allotments some time ago but as Brent Council owns the land clearly it is now up to the Executive made up of Labour Councillors whether they will sell it off to a Housing Association (exactly the same proposal as applied to the land in Councillor Moher’s ward) to build homes on or not.
Speaking about the proposals, Cllr Chandubhai Patel said,
“Selling this land and using some of the money on developing alternative land in Gladstone Park is really no way to solve the need for open space in Sudbury. It’s far too far to be of use to local residents.
Our real concern is the apparent disparity in the treatment of residents in Labour wards and other wards. If you’re in a Labour ward and you want council land to remain public – like the old scout hut in Coniston Gardens – well then that’s fine, if Labour Councillors say so, all you have to do is ask. I think it’s a real shame that Barry Gardiner has been so silent on this issue, he needs to put pressure on the Labour Executive on behalf of his residents. Why should Sudbury residents be denied the opportunities other residents get?”
Brent Pensioners Forum held a successful monthly meeting after Councillor Paul Lorber, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Brent Council, stepped in at short notice as the guest speaker on 3rd November.
Councillor Lorber stepped in to replace the local Labour MP who went abroad.
At the meeting Councillor Lorber urged members of the Forum to take part in the forthcoming referendum on a fairer voting system. He highlighted the unfairness of the current system which creates odd situations in Brent where one party can get 60% of councillors from just 40% of the votes and where the Conservatives have only 6 councillors when the votes cast for them justify twice as many seats.
Among other issues discussed was the decision by Liberal Democrats in Government to reintroduce the link for pension increases to earnings.
The Pensioner’s Forum raised concerns about the introduction of fortnightly refuse collections and problems with refuse collectors knocking on doors over the Christmas period. Cllr Lorber promised to raise these concerns with the Council.
“It was a real pleasure to attend the Pensioner’s Forum and talk to our senior citizens. We had a very positive exchange of views and a number of very important issues were discussed.” says Cllr Lorber.
The pensioners were pleased that Councillor Lorber was able to stay with them for the whole meeting and to listen and debate their concerns about the Freedom Pass, bus services and street cleaning, amongst other issues.
“Not only did Paul help us by stepping in as a guest speaker, he stayed with us for the whole two hours to participate in a wide ranging debate of local and national issues.” added Vi Steele, Chair of the Brent Pensioner’s Forum.
Reacting to the news that the proposed Brent Cross Cricklewood Development has been given final approval, Brent’s liberal Democrat Councillors have slammed the development, warning that it will bring misery to thousands of Brent’s residents.
Barnet councillors gave the initial go ahead to the scheme in November 2009 despite formal opposition from neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Camden, who expressed concern about the devastating impact of extra traffic and pollution. The development will bring an estimated 29,000 extra cars a day onto local Brent roads.
Speaking about the development, Cllr Jack Beck, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dollis Hill said,
“This is really disappointing news. This development has the potential to cause massive disruption to the lives of residents living on the Brent side of the border. Our significant misgivings about this proposal remain and are shared by many residents in Brent. Barnet have rubber stamped a deal for big money with no real consideration for the residents of Dollis Hill and Brent who are going to have suffer the consequences.
Spending big money on PR firms doesn’t hide the fact the development will be a disaster – I will be urging Brent council for cross party support on this matter and will be writing to Cllr Ann John to ensure that Brent does everything it can to protect its residents.”
Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesman in Brent, Cllr James Allie, today welcomed the announced that Liberal Democrats in Government will deliver the biggest net increase in social housing for 30 years.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday 28th October, Andrew Stunell (Liberal Democrat Minister for Housing) outlined Coalition plans to provide 150,000 affordable homes over the next four years.
Since 1979, both Labour and Conservative Governments presided over a reduction in the number of affordable homes, with each selling off more homes than they built. There were 400,000 fewer homes after the Tories’ 18 years in power and a further 45,530 fewer after 13 years of Labour.
Commenting, Cllr James Allie said:
“I’m really pleased that because of Liberal Democrat influence in Government, the Coalition will be able to increase the supply of affordable housing in this country. This will mean more social homes will be built this year than in any year under the last Labour Government.
Everyone knows times are tough and we need to learn how to do more with less in every aspect of public spending, including social housing. That’s why it’s great to see that despite the difficult economic times, and unlike Thatcher and Blair, Liberal Democrats in Government will deliver an increase in affordable housing. Which will allow boroughs like Brent to continue to develop mixed tenure communities with a long term future.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Paul Lorber has sent a petition to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, signed by local residents demanding a return of their bus stop in Watford Road, near Vale Farm Sports Centre and Sudbury Neighbourhood Centre.
The bus stop outside the shops at 36 Watford Road, Sudbury has been in position for over 30 years without any problems. A few months back it was relocated to outside numbers 62/64 Watford Road without any consultation with local peoples or local councillors and now, because the residents of 62/64 understandably objected to their private drives being blocked, the bus stop has been removed from the area completely.
The Liberal Democrats are urging Boris Johnson to intervene on behalf of local people, many of whom are elderly and disabled, who have been greatly inconvenienced by the removal of the bus stop from outside 36 Watford Road.
Speaking about the issue, Cllr Paul Lorber, said:
“Transport for London have been very unfair and irresponsible in the way they have let local people down. The old location for the bus stop outside 36 Watford Road was perfectly fine. Local residents including those attending nearby Sudbury Neighbourhood Centre for elderly and disabled residents, now face quite a walk to the nearest stop, which is difficult for many of those who used the stop. Boris needs to intervene and have the bus stop reinstated in its old location.”