Labour Councillors – including lead councillor for Neighbourhoods James Powney who led the closure of half of Brent’s libraries – have voted to exclude a locally-run library charity from bringing book lending and library activities back to the old Library building in Barham Park.
Friends of Barham library currently run their volunteer library in Wembley but want to return to the library’s traditional home in Barham park
Instead they chose to hand over the building to an organisation based in Kensington and Chelsea with no connection with the borough.
The Labour councillors backed a bid from ACAVA (Association for Cultural Advancement Through Visual Art) which offered a much smaller rent than council officers estimated was required for the former Barham Library building and other parts of the Barham Park complex.
Barham Park and the associated buildings were gifted to the council by Titus Barham in 1936 for the recreation of the public. Titus Barham, from the famous Express Dairies family, was a generous benefactor who donated large sums of money to local causes including Wembley Hospital and Sudbury Tennis Club. He wanted to ensure that local people would benefit and enjoy his home and his gardens after his passing.
The buildings have provided local services to local people ever since. This included Barham Library from 31 May 1962 until its closure by Labour Councillors in October 2011. Labour kept the building empty and derelict for over 16 months despite an offer from local charity Friends of Barham Library to pay rent and run a volunteer library at no cost to Brent Council taxpayers.
There were shambolic scenes at Brent Town Hall when the Barham Park Trust Committee met on Wednesday 13 February. Just hours before the meeting council officers had to issue a last minute ‘supplementary report’ to correct errors in the original paperwork. Labour councillors were summoned to a secret meeting behind closed doors 30 minutes before the start of the committee meeting. Following this local residents who had came to speak about the recommendations on the agenda were denied the right to speak by Labour Councillor Ruth Moher who chaired the meeting.
The Council failed to meet a commitment to the Charity Commission to consult current and prospective future users of the building about what they wanted to see the buildings used for. Evidence suggests most Sudbury residents want to see the return of a local library against the wishes of Labour councillors.
Councillor Paul Lorber, who represents Sudbury ward where Barham Park library was located, said:
This is another shameful episode in the story of Labour’s library closure policy. Local people are seeing community assets being taken away from them by Labour Councillors who simply do not care. Titus Barham would turn in his grave at the thought of how Labour Councillors are destroying his generous gift to the people of Wembley.
One of those refused the right to speak was Vi Steel, the Chair of Brent Pensioners Forum and a Sudbury resident. She wanted to ask the Committee to think of all the young and older people who have lost out as a result of the closure of Barham Library and would benefit from the return of book lending to the area.