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Friday, 8 July 2016

Update on Volunteer Libraries in Brent

The Willesden Library meeting I attended last weekend was an odd hybrid of Brent Library service and the various library volunteer groups in Brent.  The format began with some presentations on the library and culture service from the Council staff, which included the impressive performance in terms of satisfaction ratings

We then had updates from each of the library volunteer groups, who also seemed to make up most of the audience.  These presentations all tended to concentrate on the "vision" part of each scheme rather than the practical details, but I thought it was worth going through each one. 

The Cricklewood scheme seems to me to have most potential.  The demolition of the old building, which as Judge Ouseley pointed out in paragraph 51 of his judgement, was unsuitable for disabled access, has allowed its replacement with a purpose built building.  The new building sounds as if it will have much more flexibility.  This is important as the group will need financing, and the most obvious way of doing that is through room hire.  The second advantage the building has is the proximity of Gladstone Park, which could be mutually advantageous in terms of both the new centre and the park.  I didn't get much sense of what activities are planning, but I imagine that is still in formation.

Kensal Rise
The Kensal Rise group in contrast is retaining most of the ground floor of the old building.  That presentation concentrated largely on fund raising where the group has a target of £200k.  We were told that since 23 April the group had raised about £50k.  Although I suspect much of this was actually raised before 23 April during the previous five years, it certainly sounds an impressive effort.

The Barham group, where former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Lorber presented, said it is actually active.  Here there was something of a puzzle.  The Council (via the Barham Trust) agreed to lease part of the building back in October 2015.  I thought it rather odd at the time.  We were informed that a lease has yet to be signed more than half a year later.  The Council is unlikely to comment on such matters as they presumably relate to the finances of another organisation.  Paul Lorber gave no explanation for the reasons for the delay.  He did inform us that his group had been allowed in for the purposes of storage, but that they had ignored this and carried out various other activities as well.  It sounds to me as if he may be abusing his position as I predicted, and the members of the Trust Committee should investigate. 

The final group is the Preston group who claimed to have a wide range of activities underway, although there was no detail on the numbers involved.  As with Barham, the group do not appear to have a lease.  I have suggested before that there are major problems with the Council granting them a lease on the terms that they apparently expect

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