As the government and various bodies have announced a universal libraries offer, I thought it would be timely to give a short update on how Brent's libraries have been developing. Actually, many of the things in the offer, like financial advice or books on prescription, are already available in Brent. As I have explained before, we have been developing the service since the end of the court case, and there are now some impressive headline achievements:
The Summer Reading Challenge has had its greatest ever number of children in Brent this year.
Brent Libraries have seen more than one million visitors in the year to date, and more than 770,000 book issues.
Outreach issues have gone up by more than 400%, to more than 50,000.
We have had more than 15,000 new borrowers.
Since the end of the court case we have had a refurbishment at Ealing Road library and a bigger one at Kilburn Library. In June, we will open the new Wembley library at the Civic Centre.
We have added 56,000 items to the bookstock and introduced smarter stock management. If laid end to end those 56,000 items would stretch from Wembley Stadium to Piccadily Circus.
More than 1,500 children attended our revamped homework clubs in the Summer and Autumn terms.
Our home delivery service has treble the number of book issues.
We have greatly extended our online services.
Altogether, I think that is quite a lot of progress, although there is much more to do. Had we gone down the salami slicing route that so many other authorities have chosen, I don't believe we would have a list anywhere near as impressive. Indeed, it would have been a continuation of managed decline, whereas we are taking what was a declining service and gradually turning it round.