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Camden library protest
Next in line: campaigners in Camden fear their libraries could also be sacrificed

Brent axes six libraries to save £1m

Miranda Bryant
12 Apr 2011

Half the libraries in Brent are to be closed even though a public consultation found that 82 per cent of residents opposed the move.

The council's executive voted unanimously last night to axe six of the borough's 12 libraries to save £1 million over two years.

Libraries in Kensal Rise, Preston, Tokyngton, Barham Park, Neasden and Cricklewood are to shut by September. Emotions ran high at the meeting and the council's Labour leader Ann John had to ask campaigners to stop shouting.

The most high-profile casualty was Kensal Rise library, whose supporters include authors Philip Pullman and Zadie Smith. Pullman said: "It's a sad day for Brent that the council has not been persuaded despite all the arguments put forward." Anti-poverty campaigner Sam Roddick, who founded Coco de Mer, said: "Cutting the libraries is cutting the poor from the little they have. It will damn our country into the kind of poverty you see in third world countries."

Brent has been criticised over plans for a £3 million "mega library", which is due to open in 2013 as part of the council's new £100 million civic centre near Wembley Stadium.

Councillor James Powney, lead member for environment and cultural services, said: "I am satisfied that we have been as open and transparent about our plans as possible and that we have listened and engaged with as many residents as possible before reaching our decision."

But Jack Beck, a Lib-Dem councillor for Dollis Hill, said: "Some people will have to walk over two miles to get to a library. It's devastating."

About 50 campaigners protested at Camden Town Hall yesterday. All the borough's libraries are at risk and a consultation for the council has been completed by the same firm that Brent used. Author Deborah Moggach told the protesters: "Libraries are beyond price, they are our street corner universities. They are a centre for the community."

Five libraries in Ealing are being considered for closure; Lambeth's libraries face a £750,000 cut. Campaigners in Lewisham will meet officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport next week after the council cut five of 12 libraries despite 20,000 residents objecting.

Reader views (10)

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Brent Labour are doing one of the most unLabour things imaginable.

- Won't Be Voting Labour in Brent Again, Kensal Rise London, 12/04/2011 20:29
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David - usually, a walk of over 2 miles would take around 40 mins to an hour in a urban environment, for a young mother with toddlers or with a push-chair or the elderly, two of the largest user groups for libraries in the area. Dollis Hill is also on a hill (hence the name), the second highest point in London infact, the local geography is critical to this decision and in effect, totally disconnects about 10,000 people from being able to reach a local library service. Your idle comments indicate abosolutely no understanding of what the councillor is talking about. Save your bleeding heart for the Independent comments pages where I'm sure your generic, sweeping 'save the dolphins' attitude would be far more appealing.

- Brent Resident, London, 12/04/2011 13:59
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Brent Labour playing political games.

Saving £1m should be easy from other budgets.

- Andyr, St Ives, 12/04/2011 13:23
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"Some people will have to walk over two miles to get to a library. It's devastating."

Sorry, an earthquake or tsunami or civil war is devastating, not a twenty minute walk to borrow a few books from a library.

Ridiculous comment, but typical of Lib-Dem councillors. Get some perspective.

- david, sale UK, 12/04/2011 12:33
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How about the Government stops dropping bombs on Libya and instead use the money to keep the libraries open?

- Colonel Blimp, Tunbridge Wells, 12/04/2011 12:25
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You say a public consultation found that 82 per cent of residents opposed the decision last night to close six libraries. We had 1518 responses, 82 per cent of whom(1245) were opposed. This is less than half of one per cent of Brent residents. Even if we were to take all the signatories of all the petitions and ignore double counting (12,022), it would still be only four per cent. Nor can anyone say from the results what they mean for attitudes in the population as a whole, since 98 per cent of the respondents were library users and most of those from the six libraries due to close.

- Brent Council, London, 12/04/2011 12:19
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£400,000,000 a day is being borrowed to keep us in the black? I can't help feeling there's more to these cuts than just saving money. We are giving 650,000,000 in aid to India? Could it be the Conservatives are deliberately starting a chain of events that will once again create a massive social divide? A social engineering project they have probably been waiting years to do.

The Conservatives have always made sure the poor and the working class bare the brunt any cuts and these cuts in particular will make sure these sets of people will remain poor. The middle class will remain middle class or slip down to the working class bracket; the upper class (mostly Conservatives) will remain the same – hardy effect by the cuts at all. The Conservatives have always tried to secure there position of top dog and these cuts will make sure of it…

- Paul B, London, 12/04/2011 12:14
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British democracy . Over 80 percent want a vote on the EU ,but even the media are too scared of the dictators to back the public.

- dave, london, 12/04/2011 12:14
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Apart from this government's cuts libraries are reckoned to have about 20 years to go, as we knew them, anyway precisely because the government sees their future as internet cafes rather than places where people read and study books. Hence the regular sales of library books. Free internet is supposed to allow those without home connections to use the Net for payments etc. Not all councils are closing libraries. Even with the cuts policy it would make great sense to increase spending on libraries and the arts. Arts spending is a very low proportion and the benefits are great.

- Martin Spellman, Harrow-on-the-Hill, 12/04/2011 12:02
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Hasn't anyone thought of making a charge even small to borrow books and how about charging for IT access as some libraries don't charge . I'm sure that many people ould be only too willing to contribute in some way.What about an Internet cafe inside or at least a place that can provide tea and coffee and a bun . It all makes money .

- Hamilton Straker, Ealing London, 12/04/2011 11:29
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