Brent library campaigners denied further closure challenges
Posted on: Tuesday, February 07, 2012
The Guardian - 7th February 2012
Book lovers up and down the country celebrated National Libraries Day on Saturday – but in the north London borough of Brent the mood was sombre, after campaigners received another blow in their long-running fight to keep branches open.
Backed by literary names including Zadie Smith, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman and Alan Bennett, Brent residents have been campaigning for more than a year to save six local libraries – half the borough's branches. In October, their claim that Brent council had taken "a fundamentally flawed and unlawful approach" when closing the libraries was rejected by the high court, a decision that was upheld by the court of appeal in December. After this loss, campaigners applied to the supreme court, but have now been told that no further appeal will be heard.
Brent council leader Ann John said the decision "fully vindicates Brent council's actions and upholds the earlier decisions of both the court of appeal and the high court that the council acted lawfully".
While she expressed the hope that "we can now put the past behind us and focus our attentions fully on improving and developing a better library service for the people of Brent" – the council plans to replace the six branches with one £3m library by Wembley stadium – campaigners vowed that the battle would continue.
"We are definitely fighting on – the question of whether Brent is meeting its obligation to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service isn't a question for the courts – it's a question for Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state, who has so far spent some nine months failing to answer our complaints," said resident Philip Bromberg. "We will now be pressing him to reach a decision on those complaints."
And users of Kensal Rise library – which was opened by Mark Twain 100 years ago – are calling on Brent council to allow them to reopen the locked branch as a community-run service. "We appeal to Brent to work with us to preserve this vital local resource," said Margaret Bailey, a resident and director of Friends of Kensal Rise Library. "With shrinking budgets, we understand that we must be creative and constructive in finding ways to maintain services. Brent now has a choice: to regain the trust of its constituents by responding to our proposals in the spirit of cooperation, or to squander the extraordinary goodwill and commitment that this community has shown."
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