August 11, 2012
Ed Milliband, Dan Jarvis, Brent Council and Kensal Rise Library
A hundred years ago, All Souls College in Oxford, who own land in the area of Willesden in North London, gave a part of it to Willesden Council for the purpose of a public library and reading room
The only condition of the free gift was that the building, which is in Kensal Rise, should remain used in that way.
If it stopped being used like that, then the ownership of building and land would 'revert' to All Souls. The deed which states all this is clear and still exists. The responsibilites that lay with Willesden council have since become responsbilities of the London Borough of Brent
Earlier this year, in 2012, Brent Council decided - for some reason that is still not completely and properly explained- that it no longer wanted to use this 'Kensal Rise Library' and they removed, in the middle of the night, the council's assets, like books and furniture and art, thus making it, in their eyes, no longer a library.
And so, as the original deed had envisaged, the building 'reverted' to the ownership of All Souls College - who rather to their surprise and astonishment, find themselves with a large building in North London which is currently empty and unused.
The local people of Kensal Rise in long running despair of the actions of their local council have tried every which way they can to prevent the closure of their library. Their efforts are noble, considerable and now world famous. They include the creation of a community library within the precinct of the building in an attempt to prevent the 'reverter' clause from acting. (the library cat is called Rusty)
One would have thought that the normal response of councillors and highly paid public officials in Brent, to the local people, would have been to be sympathetic, at least, and to explain their reasons and even, if it were possible, to bend their conclusions and plans to try to help meet the desires of the residents.
On the contrary, the constant response of Brent's Labour Council has been to sneer, to deride, to deceive, to dismiss and in the end to behave in the most disgraceful and even disgusting manner possible. The local people in response have only been articulate and polite in their argument for the imortance of this and other community libraries.
The council's behaviour indeed, caused sufficient embarrassment in Labour Headquarters, which are not so far away that the waves of public derision passed them by, that both Ed Millband, the leader and Dan Jarvis, the spokesperson for public libraries, weighed in and tried to make it appear all right. They even tried to arrange for some dialogue where very little had taken place beforehand.
But this has all proved to be water in the sunshine - they were unable to make any difference
To the list of evils for which one must blame all these Labour Politicians and dandies, one must add deep dishonour.
Brent Council should have returned Kensal Rise Library, if it ws going to do that, in at least as good a state of repair as they received it from All Souls
All Souls are now faced with a repair bill of Five Hundred Thousand Pounds - which is the cost of putting right a building neglected by those people to whom it was given in good faith and trust.
If Dan Jarvis is to persuade anyone that he is credible in his arguments - and particularly when he accuses others of failing in their responsbilities for public libraries, as he regularly does,- then he and Ed Millband, should tell the Labour Councillors of Brent that good honour and honest behaviour - to say nothing of normal practice in the use of other peoples' property- demands that they immediately make over Five Hundred Thousand Pounds for the renovation of the building that they delapidated.
If only all these people were just honest, simple and straightforward there would be no problem with public libraries. Oh I wish
Posted by Perkins at August 11, 2012 11:26 AM
An accurate description of the total moral collapse of Brent's labour councillors regarding the libraries.
Posted by: Steve at August 11, 2012 9:11 PM
Similar criticism could have been (but wasn't) levelled at Ed Vaizey when he held the office that Jarvis holds now. Does Perkins remember that Vaizey's combative statements in opposition to Margaret Hodge were swallowed hook, line and sinker ? Look at the woeful consequences of our naïveté - and consider: politicking over Libraries is a perfect example of one enormous scam played out IN CONCERT by all the political parties to bamboozle the public. Vaizey's 'rise to power' and his shameful inaction; Jarvis's current thundering and his party's conduct, not limited to Brent; commentators' pokes at the ineffectual performance of either or both of them - It is all déjà vu. No doubt, if there is a political 'regime change' history will repeat itself.
Only if Vaizey could snap himself out of his inertia might there be proof that there has never been a grand conspiracy between ALL political parties to get rid of an accessible, quality Library Service. Otherwise we can conclude that the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour are "all in it together" - and we are patsies.
Posted by: Shirley Burnham at August 12, 2012 7:54 AM
Shirley -- yes,indeed
We aren't patsies - but I think we all underestimate the nature of the link between central government and local government, both that between politicians and that between officials in each.
If there ever were to be effective leadership on any matter of public libraries by any party, it has to be based on a more practical and realistic understanding of that relationship than we currently have
To me - that is the hard part of all this -- even if one could bring oneself to believe that Vaizey or Jarvis, or Hodge, or Lammy, or any of the others had constructive intentions - those could only become reality if they all had a practical working relatonship with local councils - either of their own party or in general.
The reality is that they don't - to call oneself 'Conservative' in Oxfordshire CC or 'Labour' in Brent Council is nothing to do with what the papers or the national parties mean by Conservative or Labour - they are just badges used deceitfully at election time. There is no practical working relationship beteeen national and local council parties - so that there cannot be a 'shared vision' for libraries of the kind for which we all so desperately hope.
If we need reform of the electoral system - it is in the nature of local government that we need it - not as we have watched recently in the House of Lords (which should just be closed to save the money)
In many parts of the country - as we have observed in these campaigns- there isn't even a dependable, responsible relationship between the MP and the local council . Where we live the council doesn't even bother to reply to letters from our MP.
To me that is all wrong - local government should not mean local fiefdom and baronial rule. Sadly, I think, that that kind of situation does exist is a large part of the cause of the downfall of the library service. ... and Vaizey and Jarvis need to try, in whatever way they can, to work to prevent this kind of damage- and not just blindly to support their local parties.
Posted by: perkins at August 12, 2012 9:27 AM
I completely agree with all of the above, local councils are much more urgently in need reform than Lords. In Oxfordshire, Keith Mitchell was elected by two thousand people in Bloxham yet for a many years has held absolute power over every decision. The party system we perpetuate though our indifference means once in power we can be safely ignored and the policies are poor because they are never really challenged or put up to any scrutiny. It was so bad in Oxfordshire that even his own side were complaining about one man taking all the decisions:
"not as with the library fiasco where one person was making the decisions, talking to the press and then expecting the group to agree with what had been announced.This has happened several times over recent years.”
To pretend we live in a proper democracy is a joke.
Posted by: Trevor Craig at August 12, 2012 10:53 AM
@ShirleyBurnham Original post only tells half the story. Both commentators have valid points, everything in life is trade off, honourable people quit when they can no longer do their job effectively
Posted by: Francis at August 12, 2012 10:58 AM
It's the inconsistency within the Labour ranks that gets me, Brent acting in this way, Croydon Labour opposing privatisation, Harrow Labour proposing it and Lambeth trying to muddy the waters by proposing a cooperative model! Surely Jarvis and co should be intervening to sort out the mess?
Posted by: Alan Wylie at August 12, 2012 11:04 AM
Francis-- so what is the other half of the story?
Posted by: perkins at August 12, 2012 2:30 PM