I wanted to come back to Paul Lorber's library proposal at the last budget meeting. This is the fourth proposal that Cllr Paul Lorber has put forward on libraries.
The first was put not to the Council, but as a press release to the Wembley Observer in February 2011. Cllr Paul Lorber said: "These proposals are fully costed and if the Labour Executive is serious in their promise to listen to local people they will accept these proposals and give local people a chance to save their much loved local Library.” He never presented the proposals, so we had no opportunity to consider them seriously or otherwise.
At the Budget meeting that year, he produced a totally different plan: to delay the Libraries Transformation Project by half year whilst we all waited for something to turn up. We chose not to adopt that approach.
At the Executive in April 2011, he had yet another proposal. this one applied solely to Barham Park Library. It suggested to me that he has little grasp of the legal status of Barham Park, surprising for someone who has represented that area for so many years. It suggested erecting advertising hoardings around the Park and using the income (if there was any) to subsidise a trust under his chairmanship inside the Barham Park building complex. That proposal was unworkable on any number of levels.
This year's budget saw yet another proposal. This time he went back to all six former Library buildings in Brent. He actually seems to have proposed two different versions of this proposal on the same night. The written proposal suggests re-opening the libraries at a cost of 600k. Since, the full saving of the Libraries Transformation project (LTP) was about one million pounds, this leaves a shortfall. He could get a further 200k by not following the re-investment parts of the LTP, i.e. not making investment in IT, the online offer or seven day opening hours. If so, I look forward to his next leaflet to users of (say) Kilburn Library telling them, he wants to cut their opening hours. That still leaves him with a shortfall, however.
He seemed to be forced into a spontaneous variation on the Budget setting night as a result of where he wanted to get the 600k from. His written proposal aimed to get much of it from cutting the ward working budget. When Labour proposed increasing the ward working budget, I suspect he wasn't sure whether to support it or not (eventually all the Liberal Democrats voted against). He therefore invented the argument, on the spur of the moment, that we should cut the bookstock fund to pay for keeping the buildings open. Essentially, he is opting for a version of the genteel decline option that I have criticised previously.
Still, this constant swapping around between various incompatible proposals doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it?