Tag Archives: brent

Time to vote for libraries

Vote for libraries on May 3rd (image c/o Alan Cleaver on Flickr).

Thursday May 3rd sees local elections once more taking place across the UK.  Once more, this is a chance to hold to account those politicians who have been behind moves to close libraries or forcing communities into running them themselves.  This is a chance to send a strong message to politicians who have not listened to library users and hold them to account for their refusal to engage or listen to the concerns of library users.

Take, for example, Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris.  As a result of his leadership, five libraries were closed across the town, including Oxford Grove library in his own ward of Halliwell.  Secretary of the local Save Bolton Libraries campaign, Ian McHugh, will be standing against Cllr Morris representing the Green Party.  We wish Ian the best of luck in his efforts.

In Doncaster, a referendum will be held to decide whether Doncaster will be run by a mayor or by a leader of the council.  This is an opportunity for the people of Doncaster to reject their mayor, who has wreaked havoc across the borough and seriously undermined the principles of democratic accountability.  In the past couple of months, Mayor Davies has defended his decision to veto £380,000 worth of investment in libraries and has overruled a majority council decision to reopen libraries at Denaby and Carcroft.  We very much hope that the people of Doncaster reject their existing system and choose one that is more democratic, backing the clear will of the people of Doncaster to provide a properly funded library service.

Campaigners in London also have an opportunity to remove those that have been hostile to public library provision.  Voters in Barnet and Camden, for example, have an opportunity to reject Brian Coleman as their representative in the London Assembly.  Coleman has been a key inspiration behind attempts to close libraries within the borough, despite being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  In Croydon and Sutton, library users will be alarmed to know that candidate Steve O’Connell recently claimed that he “does not care who runs public libraries…All that matters is that they are kept open.”  So replacing paid staff with volunteers seems to be very much on the table as far as O’Connell is concerned.  Furthermore, campaigners in Brent will be looking very carefully at the record of their current representative Navin Shah, who has done little to support campaigners in the fight against their local authority, supporting Brent’s claims that the authority was in an “impossible” position and had no choice.

Come May 3rd those concerned about library closures have a clear choice.  Now is the time to vote for libraries and make sure your local authorities get the message loud and clear: Save Our Libraries.

Outcome of Brent Judicial Review

Voices for the Library would like to express our disappointment with this morning’s ruling over the future of Brent libraries.  We would also like to re-state our support for library campaigners in Brent who have fought so hard to protect their library service for the good of the broader community.

The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere.  Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures.  They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.

Libraries across the country provide a vital service for many across the boundaries of society.  From young and old to rich and poor, libraries provide services for everyone. In the age of the internet it is easy to assume everyone has access to a wealth of free information.  The reality is that there are 9 million people in this country who are not connected to the internet.  For those 9 million people, the library is the only resource they have.  For parents of young children, the library plays an important role in supporting their development and improving their literacy skills.  For the elderly it is a vital lifeline to ensure they are not excluded from society.

Those who care about libraries across this country must come together and ensure that this ruling does not have the effect that many council leaders desire.  Together we can make a difference.  Together we can put pressure on Ed Vaizey to fulfil his commitment as Minister for libraries and ensure that library services across the country are truly comprehensive and efficient.  Write to Ed Vaizey and your councillors, get involved in local campaigns, encourage everyone you know to support and use their local library.  Together we can stop our library service being totally destroyed by those that do not understand the benefits they bring to local communities.

To the campaigners in Brent, we also say that whilst we share your disappointment, we hope you continue to fight your case at every turn.  You can be assured that we will stand and fight with you.  Today has undoubtedly been a setback but the outpouring of support for public libraries throughout the day should remind us that our cause is right.

Campaigners from Brent and around the country will be meeting on Saturday 22nd October at  University of London Union to co-ordinate efforts. See here for more details.

See here for a response from Unison and here for a response from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Update: 20/10/11

Brent campaigners have been granted permission to appeal the decision made by Mr Justice Ouseley. The appeal is due to be heard in three weeks.

Key Library Service Judicial Reviews Underway

It’s an important time for UK public libraries. Following on from severe proposed cuts by local councils’, a number of library campaigns have managed to force the decisions to Judicial Review. Brent library campaigners were the first to go through this process and are waiting for a decision to be made on their claim. Following on from this, Tuesday of this week saw the start of the second Judicial Review in the High Court for Gloucestershire and Somerset libraries. Gloucestershire and Somerset claims are being heard together in a joint procedure. So far, the QC representing Gloucestershire and Somerset claimants has presented the case against both Councils’ and tomorrow the defence QC will present the case for the Councils. Further details from the Gloucestershire perspective can be found here.
The challenges raised in the judicial reviews’ can be summarised as:
  • Brent: “Brent Council has closed its mind to alternatives to closure, did not assess community needs or the impact of closure properly, made significant mistakes about the facts, misunderstood its legal duty to provide a library service and acted unfairly.” (Further details here)
  • Gloucestershire and Somerset: “The Councils have breached their legal obligations to residents by: 1. Failing to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” as required by the Libraries and Museums Act; 2. Failing to adequately assess and have due regard to its statutory equalities duties; and 3. Failing to consult residents in a fair, effective and open manner and to take into consideration the results.” (Further details of Gloucestershire campaign here; and Somerset here)

Even though there are differences in the challenges raised, the common ground is that claimants and campaigners all want to ensure that legal duties to provide a library service aren’t ignored; and that they want their local council’s to listen to the opinions of local residents and communities… The people they represent… The users of the library services they are destroying.

Many other campaigners, besides those in Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset, are in much the same position – still fighting to get themselves heard by their local councils, who are forcing them down a similar route.
The outcome of these reviews may well have an impact on other campaigns throughout the country – at this stage they are giving hope to those who aren’t as far down the campaigning route; and we imagine they are making local council’s think twice about cutting services so drastically and removing paid staff. Once the decisions of the judicial reviews are announced they are likely to influence any future decisions around libraries throughout the rest of the U.K.
We’re unsure when the decisions will be made at this stage, but we hope that all the campaigners’ hard work and efforts pay off, and that the local communities who will be affected by the cuts, get the library services they deserve and are entitled to.

Voices for the Library in the Press

The Telegraph’s Martin Chilton mentioned Voices for the Library in yesterday’s piece Library campaigners helped by Nick Cave. The article highlights the success and celebrity endorsements of campaigns against public library cuts in places such as Gloucestershire, the Isle of White, Brent, Kensal Rise, and Oxfordshire.

For more information on National Libraries Day in February 2012, please see our National Love Libraries Day page. You can also find links to local campaigns on our website’s Campaigns page.