Monday, 5 September 2016

"Dear Mo, we feel political parties ought to keep their promises..."

Letter to Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council. from Philip Bromberg of Preston Community Library

Dear Mo,

I hope you're well. I write, as ever, as Chair of Preston Community Library (PCL). The report on the future of the Preston Library site was discussed at our committee meeting yesterday. I have some more detailed questions which I will send later this week, but I wanted to send you our initial thoughts as soon as possible. You will not be surprised to hear that we are very unhappy about some of the report's recommendations.

You will recall that in May 2014 Brent Labour Party promised, if elected, to "offer the building at a peppercorn rent to any local community group who can provide a sustainable  community library... that is our pledge. We will not open to competitive tender in order to give preference to local groups" At the time you were happy to sign up to this pledge.

Can I draw your attention to para 3.3 of the report, which is, I'm afraid, a gross misrepresentation of recent history. We set up the library in April 2015 at the invitation of members of the then Cabinet; I assume you were involved in that decision, and also in the decision to continue to charge us a peppercorn rent. The library has operated continuously in the building from then until today. There has never been anything irregular about our presence in the building, and the suggestion is, frankly, offensive.

PCL's strong preference is to continue to run the library from the existing building. If, however, the Council decides to re-develop the site, then it needs to do so in a way consistent with promises made two years ago. In practice this means that you need now to guarantee that any new community space must contain a library at least as large as at present, which must be offered at a peppercorn rent. This is no more than you promised two years ago.

Why do we say this? Well, as a matter of principle we feel that political parties ought to keep their election promises. The report mentions (para 3.9) fairness to other community groups, but what about fairness to the dozens of Preston and Barnhill residents who have given thousands of hours to create and run a library, on the basis of promises made by you in 2014?

But there is a bigger issue than mere fairness or broken promises. The fact is that from a standing start, and in very trying circumstances, we have built a fully functioning public library. We offer a wide range of classes and activities for adults and children, and have (with your support) established a much-loved community cinema. We have just received a two-year grant (from Brent!) to improve - in partnership with your Library Service - the service we offer. All of this has been achieved at minimal cost to the Council, and all of it is now at risk.

We urge you to ensure that Preston Community Library is able to continue its work for the foreseeable future.

I look forward to hearing from you.



  1. Could this be a repeat of what happened with Tokyngton Library?

    1. Perhaps not. But, since you mention it, I suppose a comparison of the fates of the former Tokyngton and Preston Libraries might prove instructive. A Tale of Two Libraries. Philip

  2. This just shows how deceitful the Leader and his little cohort are. Someone should make it clear that this borough is not Tower Hamlets. WE ARE NOT IMPRESSED!!!!.

  3. Has Councillor Butt replied to this email? If so, can you shared his reply with us, please, Philip B.?

    Philip G.