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Friday, 23 March 2018

The Curious Case of Preston Community Library

I thought I would take another look at the curious case of Preston Community Library (PCL), which has been earmarked for an enormous grant from Brent Council resources for reasons I find mystifying.

The grant comes in two kinds.  One is held by Brent Property Services to be spent on the building (essentially doing up the interior).  That seems a bit odd as the Council want to redevelop the building but have yet to decide what to do.  There is a potential for a bigger development that would result in more housing or a more modest rebuild with fewer units.

The other chunk of almost £80k is to be spent by the PCL group itself.  They apparently want to spend it on furniture, including shelving.  Given that their largest spend hitherto appears to be £6.3k, upping that to more than ten times as much sounds like a big step up in their internal organisation.  It is not entirely clear what they have done in the past as they appear not to post accounts, or have any formal mechanism to report their activities.

The objects of PCL are listed as: "1. The donation of books for lending to the public 2. The provision of book-cases and shelving and library space for storage of books. 3. The provision of both fiction and non fiction books to both children and adults 4. The provision of related events and activities for the community."

Their web site appears to be somewhat out of date with last updates in 2012 (aside from a newsletter), but their facebook has more recent details.   The group's interpretation of its role at the moment does not appear to lay a heavy emphasis on books despite the objectives quoted above.

This lack of book stock is a concern since there appears to be an expectation that books will be obtained from somewhere.  Why else spend more than £30k on shelving?  Although the organisation has been in existence since 2011, it does not appear to have obtained books of its own.  I hope it has no expectation of still further support from Brent Council.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Curiouser and Curiouser

The curious looking for more details about the "Preston Community Library" can find them here.  Currently operating a budget of a few thousand pounds, Brent's gifting of more than a quarter of a million goes well beyond anything that the organisation has done in the past.  Normally, Brent has asked for due diligence to be carried out as part of its decision to award grants.  Organisations which have no previous history of dealing with these kind of sums find it hard to obtain the grant.

The situation is therefore even more anomalous than it appeared to be. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Capital and Revenue

The Guardian has another story claiming Councils are selling off assets to plug gaps in revenue spend.  There is no surer way to end up like Northamptonshire Council.  An asset sale gets a one off receipt.  A one off receipt should be used for a one off expenditure (such as a service transformation).  Otherwise you are simply delaying a cut, not preventing it, and you may end up with no cash and your organisation collapsing about you.

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Impossibility of Local Government

Jo Miller of Doncaster Council and Solace has become the latest to speak out on the inevitable destruction that central government policies are forcing on local government.  I actually hear less of the bleeding stumps line now than a few years ago, probably because Tory run authorities are making the impossibilities as clear as Labour ones. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Why Brent Should Have Paused on Fire Safety

Details are emerging from the Moore-Bick and Police enquiries that the water proofing of the cladding and the robustness of the fire doors may both have been factors in the spread of the fire.  Along with the cost, that is why I suggested delaying a response until the Enquiries had reported.  It is entirely possible that more than one potential improvement will be identified and it will not all just be about one form of cladding.