Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Preston Library wins 3 month licence extension and Council community library strategy

 Statement by Cllr Butt  (Leader) & submissions by Cllrs Harrison, Hossain & Warren*

Submissions by Michael Rushe & Philip Bromberg, statements by Cllr Pavey & Cllr Southwood*

Cabinet discussion and decision

Brent Cabinet agreed to a 3 month extension of Preston Community Library's licence tonight to enable the Council to formulate a Community Library Strategy which would cover all Brent community libraries. The situation will be reviewed in January 2017.

The Cabinet was addressed by Michael Rushe of SKPPRA and Philip Bromberg of Preston Community Library. They presented a closely argued evidence based case for the continuation of the library and for rejection of the officers' report.

Cllrs Harrison and Hossain, Preston ward councillors, spoke on behalf of the library with Harrison calling for the Council to keep its promises to the Preston volunteers. Hossain spoke of the library's key role in facilitating a place for the area's diverse community to meet and socialise.

Cllr Pavey, lead member for Stronger Communities and Libraries rejected the report's terminology of a 'pop up library' to describe Preston Community Hub.  The bookcase at Willesden Green station was a 'pop up' - Preston with its shelves of books, classes and cinema was much more than that. He argued for the primacy of social value in any procurement process rather than financial value. The financial equivalent of the volunteers' efforts should be included in a calculation of social value. Pavey suggested that in any design for the new building the library space shoudl come first and the flats second.

Cllr Muhammed Butt said that the group, if it got part of the redeveloped building, would  not be expected to pay the £51,000 commercial rent mentioned in the officers' report but he did not specify a peppercorn rent either.

He emphasised that he did not want to be in a conflict situation with the volunteer libraries but wanted to work with them. The libraries complemented the six Brent Council libraries and did not replace them.

During the discussion it was clarified that the report granted the Council permission to start a dialogue with the owner of the garage neighbouring the site about possible purchase to develop the garage's corner plot alongside the library. No approach had been made as yet.

There was a cautionary note from Gail Tolley, Strategic Director for Chldren and Families. She said that although the possible provision of a Primary Pupil Referral Unit on the library site was being dealt with separately and there were enough spaces for Reception pupils in the area, the Council were still getting 'in year' demand from families moving into the area from other parts of London, the UK or elsewhere. There was particular pressure on Years 3 and 4. There was no way of predicting the numbers or age groups of children who would arrive between now and next July.  More would be known by the end of the 3 month period,  in terms of the possible use of the site for bulge classes for those children,  but beyond that was still unpredictable.

* Video date should be September 13th NOT August 13th. The hottest September day for a century got me confused!


Anonymous said...

Rumour has it that Butt and McLennan were absolutely roasted in the Cabinet pre-meeting, which triggered the concessions. Now they must be delivered.

Anonymous said...

Butt does not have the public speaking ability to warrant the position he is in. Surely the leader of Brent Council should be able to put a few sentences together in a confident manner. Some of his interviews with news broadcasters have been farcical.

Philip Grant said...

I have just watched the three videos - thank you, Martin (or whoever took them) for sharing these with us.

From what little I could make out of Cllr. Butt's mutterings, and the short contribution from Cllr. McLennan in the third video, it sounded as if they were asking Preston Community Library not to be confrontational. However, it was not the library and its supporters which put forward the proposals which Cabinet was discussing!

Congratulations to Preston Community Library for standing up for the service which they and their volunteers are providing to the community, and to Cllrs. Pavey, Southwood and Mashari (and other backbench councillors) for speaking out so clearly in favour of the Council working together with local community library groups in a sensible and reasonable way, for the benefit of Brent's people.


Anonymous said...

Cllr Butt should surely take his head out of his butt and start listening to the people who elected him and his party and do their bidding. Not pander to council officers many of which do not live in the borough or give a jot as to what happens to its residents. Despite us paying their wages they could at least answer the phones and respond to emails in a timely manner.