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Brent Council Meeting “too shambolic”

Library cuts to go ahead: general disappointment with councillors who were joking and clowning around, grandstanding, and mocking each other during a debate that will have such serious consequences.

Despite a heavy police and security presence at Monday night's council meeting to prevent protesters (or indeed residents) from getting anywhere near the council chamber during the debate to slash Brent Council's spending, some managed to get in. Phil O’ Shea, a local film screenwriter and campaigner for ‘Save Kensal Rise Library’ watched from the public gallery. He said: “They could have saved the libraries separately from the rest of the budget but they decided not to. We are really upset. We feel we have been stabbed in the back.”

And we were disappointed by the number of councillors who were joking and clowning around, grandstanding, and mocking each other during a debate that will have such serious consequences.”

The Labour council voted in favour of the massive budget cuts after defeating two amendments put forward by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems which would have saved the libraries for at least a year – giving campaigners more time to come up with solutions to save them permanently.

It's ironic that while the cuts are being brought about by the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition government, it is the local authorities responsibility to enforce them... only for the coalition parties to score points at local level by pretending to be fighting these policies. Welcome to the hypocritical world of contemporary politics!

Local people who attended the meeting weren't at all impressed with the proceedings. Laura Collignon said: “We went to the Town Hall meeting but could not get in, as by 6.50pm the main doors had been locked and they were guarded by police officers who said the public gallery was full and no-one else was being allowed in. Quite a lot of people managed to get into the Town Hall through a side entrance (via the library) but I don't think anyone else managed to get into the council chamber. There were lots of police officers and they were starting to talk about arresting people, though from what I could see, people were just holding their banners, singing and chanting. “

David Butcher who also attended the meeting added: “We were in the chamber - so depressing I left after an hour or so. Anne John blamed everything on the coalition, was heckled a fair bit, then got cheers from the gallery when she announced that some pet projects had been saved. Paul Lorber took her on but the Labour group jeered and talked among themselves. Then the Tory bloke spoke and he was jeered too. All very ugly and a bit shambolic. Left before they voted on the budget but it looked a foregone conclusion as all the amendments were lumped together as one - making it hard for Labour members to vote against their leadership.

Avril Mackintosh’s comments illustrate well the frustration and disillusion of many people present: “The meeting was embarrassing. To think that those people are in charge of the future of Brent is a joke. If they could have seen how stupid their mocking, showing off and clowning was, they would be ashamed. How can the public who attended ever respect them again?” To add insult to injury, "two councillors actually fell asleep.”

Readers can still respond to the Brent Libraries Transformation Consultation Questionnaire v2The deadline is today. While campaigners point out that the options are carefully worded and positioned in order to fuel the closure position (and thus they believe the process to be profoundly devious), it is still worth doing because there are two spaces in the questionnaire where you can say what you really think.

 

Note: DISCUSS THE THREATENED LIBRARY CLOSURE WITH YOUR LOCAL COUNCILLORS. Regular monthly surgery with Councillor James Powney, Cllr Bobby Thomas and Cllr Claudia Hector tomorrow Saturday 5th March, 10.30 am until noon, St Mark’s Church Hall, All Souls’ Avenue, London, NW10 5HX. 

Links:

http://www.savekensalriselibrary.org 

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Comments  

#3 Anonymous Coward 2011-03-07 23:13
'A council spokesman', if you have so much faith in your fellow councillors, why don't you reveal your name?

And numerous eye-witness accounts suggest the public gallery and council chamber had plenty of empty seats and councillors were laughing and jeering. It's true public safety is important - but the safety of our libraries is important too, particularly from those who don't take these issues seriously.
#2 Cristina Osorio 2011-03-07 22:04
And,what exactly is your point?
Dear council spokesman if you took the time to write a response I would expect it to be more meaty. You started by stating a fact, then you rebuked people's opinion of the way the meeting was conducted and poor behaviour/attitude of councillors at the meeting but what we really want to know is why is the council wasting money on a consultation when budget for libraries have already been cut...But even more appalling is that there are plans in the pipeline for Willesden Green Library and if these were to go ahead (if) that would mean that this library would also be out of action for a considerable period of time. Where are all the displaced library visitors going to go? And please dont tell me that you are going to have better mobile libraries - people want to visit libraries so that they are not stuck at home and can interact with others. Thank you for your very empty comment.
#1 A council spokesman 2011-03-07 14:32
This year's budget is arguably the weightiest and most demanding that councillors have considered in recent years and the issues understandably generated heated debate and political rhetoric. Any impression that councillors were not taking matters seriously at Tuesday's meeting is regrettable, but inaccurate. Both the public gallery and council chamber were full, suggesting that access to the Town Hall for members of the public was not unduly restricted. Increased stewarding of the building for this meeting was in the interest of public safety.

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