Sunday, 17 April 2011

Labour Councillor: Closing libraries is 'the best thing we've done'.

I am just back from holiday and catching up on local news. It was no surprise to hear that the Brent Executive voted through the library closures as that decision was anticipated by the budget approved by the Council earlier, by the officers' report to the Council and by Cllr Powney's utterances throughout. 'Consultation', 9,000 petition signatures, 'Big Society' schemes and even two hours of eloquent  presentations to the Executive. mean nothing if the Labour leadership and its supine councillors have already made up their minds.

The attitude of some Labour councillors is summed up by this comment posted on the Save Preston Library Facebook page. Cllr Colum Mahoney was alleged to have said at the end of the meeting when demonstrators said how gutted they were at losing their library:
He said with a wide grin on his face, "It's the best thing we've done." As we he was walking out of the Town Hall doors, he shouted back at us, "Go and read some books."
The issue of the Civic Centre has come to the fore as a result of the press and TV coverage and the Conservatives on the Council, despite being part of the previous Council Coalition that initiated the project, are now more vocal in their opposition. When all the political parties on the council voted unanimously for the Civic Centre, the Greens were the only voice of opposition.  Cllr Reg Colwill can bee seen on the London ITN News criticising the project:

Interestingly even the Wall Street Journal LINK suggests that Brent Council could move into cheap office space:
......instead of constructing what it aims to be "the greenest building in the U.K." Forgoing the new center's wedding garden, winter garden, terrace, and charging points for electric cars might also leave a little more cash for libraries.
My colleague Shahrar Ali has posted a report on the Executive Meeting HERE

The question for me remains, 'What price local democracy?' The Willesden and Brent Times last week in a editorial echoed my warnings about the impact of poor consultation procedures, decisions made in advance of consultations and the rubbishing of active citizenship on the electorate's long-term relationship with the Council. The Council may express concern that only 20% of residents use the public libraries - those same 20% are probably a much bigger proportion of those people who actually vote at local elections (only just over half of those on the electoral roll last May).

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