Pressure is mounting on embattled Brent council leader Ann John and Culture councillor James Powney, as hundreds of residents – over 400 – turned out to hear Alan Bennett in support of Brent’s libraries at a sold-out event, packing full a large church, and raising almost £5000 in one evening alone. The event was also broadcast on BBC Newsnight and has had widespread press coverage, both national and local.
The news is particularly worrying for councillors such as Bobby Thomas, in whose ward Kensal Rise Library is situated, and who was elected by less than 60 votes – a fraction of the hundreds of residents who turned out to oppose him and the council’s plans on Tuesday evening.
Residents across Brent are now urging Cllrs Ann John and James Powney to swallow their pride and listen to those who elected them. As author Tim Lott explained on BBC Newsnight, residents understand that there is a financial problem, but have put forward alternative plans and tried to work with Brent Council. The council should therefore be striving to ensure that the libraries are kept open, not planning closures which will hit young people across Brent.
But in a shocking admission, Cllr Lesley Jones has revealed that the proposed library closures in Brent have nothing to do with the financial situation and that they have been planned for twelve years. And Cllr Powney has added to the embattled council’s woes by posting a rant on his website in which he slurred Mark Twain and attempted to justify hiding from the press. Cllr Ann John has told residents to “go to Tesco instead”.
Labour Party members are said to be furious with Powney and Ann John’s behaviour, and have voted through a motion of no confidence in the Council Executive’s handling of the library closures, fearing a huge defeat on an unprecedented scale at the next council elections.
The message to Cllr Ann John from across Brent is loud and clear: listen to the people who elected you. Don’t harm Brent’s young people. Don’t close our libraries.