Liberal Democrat Councillors have called on Brent Council to save money by scaling down the size of the proposed Civic Centre Library to help safeguard the 6 local community libraries under threat of closure from the Labour-run Council.
They are demanding that unless all the local community libraries can be protected the proposed new library in the Civic Centre should be scaled down. The Civic Centre Library is due to replace the current library in the Town Hall. In response to enquiries from Liberal Democrats the Council has had to confirm that the new Civic Centre Library (1168 square meters) will in fact be almost 3 times as large as the current Town Hall Library (429 square meters) and will cost around £3 million to build and fit out as part of the total Civic Centre cost.
As far back as 2004 plans were drawn up under the then Labour Administration which recommended the closure of 4 libraries – Barham, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise and Tokyngton – situated in residential areas (see: http://tinyurl.com/2004Report).
The plans to close the 4 Libraries failed to be implemented when Labour lost control of Brent Council in the May 2006 local elections when the Liberal Democrats became the largest party on the Council. The Liberal Democrat-led Administration under Councillor Paul Lorber scrapped the closure plans and embarked on safeguarding all 12 libraries through a policy of investment in complimentary activities to share costs and also help increase attendances at local Libraries.
With Labour regaining control of Brent Council in the May 2010 local elections libraries are under threat of closure again. According to Councillor Lorber, Cllr Ann John and the Labour Leadership simply dusted off their original library closure plans and added Preston and Neasden Libraries to the closure list – making it 6 out of 12 Libraries under threat of immediate closure – to save £1 million.
The Liberal Democrats have already exposed the fact that while 3 libraries around Willesden – Cricklewood, Kensal Rise and Neasden are proposed for closure the Labour Executive failed to mention that they were looking at plans to redevelop the Willesden Library site and that during the major rebuild the Willesden Library could be closed for up to 2 years – depriving almost a third of Brent of any library for a considerable amount of time.
Speaking about the need to safeguard local community libraries first, Cllr Paul Lorber said,
“There is a very big difference between the Liberal Democrats and Labour on the issue of local community libraries. Despite all the financial pressures the Liberal Democrats protected our libraries in recognition of the valuable part they play in serving local communities. Labour Councillors however have always wanted to close as many of them as possible. Labour’s consultation is a sham as it failed to mention their plans for Willesden Library closure or to justify the spending of £3 million on a new library in the Civic Centre while planning to close 6 local libraries. For many local people a library is an essential local service. It is clear that our libraries are not safe in Labour’s hands.”
You can read Councillor Lorber’s letter to Brent Council about the Civic Centre Library here: Cllr Lorber letter to Brent Council.