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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Brent Museum Strategy Knocked Back

I see form the Brent Council Forward Plan that the Brent Museum strategy has been knocked back to January, having originally been proposed for November.  This seems a little odd as I had thought it was ready a long time ago.  I notice the library stock contract has also been pushed back.  Given the financial state of the Council, it would not surprise me if a significant budget cut were being planned for the books budget, which would be a great pity as maintaining the book fund was a key part of Libraries Transformation Project. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Brent Council Budget Drifts

I am still getting a sense that Brent Council is no closer to a real long term plan for its finances than it was a year ago.  Recent moves like the proposed abolition of the Environment Department strike me as just the crudest of finance driven cuts, and the continuing ignoring of human resources failures hints at an organisation in serious trouble.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Limited Library Budgets

In a recent post, Public Libraries News pointed out that some Council are sacrificing jobs in the library service for buildings and books.  Put as directly as that it sounds pretty brutal, but in fact that has long been the choice as I have pointed out before.  In Brent, this was made clear as early as the first consultation meeting on 1 December 2010, when the audience was told an equivalent through shorter opening times (i.e. fewer staff) would require a 40% reduction across the border.  For example, instead of extensive refurbishment and opening seven days a week, Kilburn Library would have remained with its ongoing problems and opening only three days a week.

A similar logic applies to other Council budgets, and seems so obvious that I find it hard to see why people don't get it.

Brent Council, in a document not yet agreed (or possibly even read) by councillors is proposing further cuts to the libraries budget.  At the same time some campaigners seem to think they can set up private libraries and rely on the Council for some sort of funding and support.  If that were to happen, that would entail a draining away of resources from the Council's own library service in resources and quite possibly management time.  In other words, a reversal of the current successful approach and the switch by a Labour Council to a rather strange form of privatisation with no agreed monitoring of the quality of service. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Brent Civic Centre Success

I am glad to see that Brent Civic Centre has been given another award.  More important are the numerous benefits to Brent, including of course Wembley Library.  

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Importance of Forward Planning

I see Martin Francis is taking Brent Council to task for putting Stonebridge Adventure Playground on its Forward Plan and then off again.  He concentrates on the suggestion that a report on a decision is being advertised as being taken before the consultation will have finished, which would suggest the consultation is something of a sham and that the Council is disregarding its own procedures.  Both of these could potentially lead to legal action.

The Council has a statutory duty to put items on the Forward Plan at least three months before decision.  Brent's own Constitution certainly used to demand a slightly long period of four months, although I am not sure if this has changed.  Violation of such a rule could be a ground of legal challenge, as of course could the suggestion that the Council's miond was made up prior to the decision. 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Sunderland Library Success

Sunderland is reported to consider its libraries service a success despite widespread closures.  As in Brent, Sunderland closed nine buildings without going down the community managed libraries route.  Frustratingly, I can't find a link to the original scrutiny report so details are short.

Sunderland's main measurement of success appears to be book loans, which (as in Brent) have gone up. Like Brent, they seem to have greatly expanded outreach services.  Some of the press reports seem to suggest that some residents actually find outreach easier.  However, there is less mention of ebooks, improved online service or new buildings than in Brent. 

It would be good to find more detail to see what the differences between Brent and Sunderland might be.