Dan Jarvis MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister, has welcomed Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt’s announcement today of an agreement to work with local campaign groups with the aim of keeping Kensal Rise library open as a community project.
The council is offering to start a dialogue with campaigners based on their offer to run the library at no cost to the council, and help them with a limited package of support, if the remaining obstacles to the transition can be overcome.
Councillor Butt said:
“When I took over as the leader of Brent council in May I made it clear that I wanted to improve the relationship between the council and the community. That is what I hope we can achieve with this decision.
“I was not leader when the decisions that led to Tuesday’s removal of materials from Kensal Rise library were taken, but that action happened on my watch and I take responsibility for it. Now I am determined to establish a new dialogue with the community in Kensal Rise. To this end, I have had a series of meetings since Tuesday with campaigners, fellow councillors, and council officers.
“That does not mean I can offer an easy solution. Our libraries have to bear a share of spending cuts, and I make no apology for that. The deep reductions of over £100 million in Brent's budget imposed by this Tory-led government mean we have to make difficult choices about all our services. But it is also right that we have a meaningful discussion with local campaign groups, and if a way can be found to lessen the impact of the cuts without undermining our financial stability, then we should explore it.
“What we have agreed today is to sit down with the campaign groups and work with them on the basis of their proposal to run the library at no ongoing cost to the council. The plan is also dependent on an arrangement being reached with All Soul’s College Oxford, which donated the land to the local community on condition it was used as a library, and on resolving a number of other issues. But the council will make every effort to overcome these obstacles.
“As a gesture of my commitment to Kensal Rise library I have instructed officers to return the plaques taken from the library as soon as is practically possible. I have also instructed council officers to prepare a limited but significant package of support to help the transition, if an arrangement can be reached. This will include professional development and technical support, as well as seed funding."
Dan Jarvis said:
“This is a very positive result that reflects Labour’s understanding of the importance of libraries to local communities, and the need to have as full a dialogue as possible on any changes to the service.
“We hope this decision will mean Kensal Rise library is preserved as an asset for local people to use and develop. It is not an easy way out – it puts a good deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the campaigners and there are a number of issues that will need to be worked through before a final agreement can be reached. But we believe these obstacles can be overcome – and that this is an appropriate balance to strike between the wishes of those that want to see the library preserved and the financial pressures the council faces.
“The council deserve credit for this move, and Councillor Butt has shown real leadership in coming forward with a solution at a difficult time for the council. He has my full support as this process continues.”