Monday, 19 December 2011

Libraries Latest - Court of Appeal decision 19th December 2011. The fight goes on

No early Xmas present for Brent Library Campaigners as the Court of Appeal today dismissed our appeal - but don't go - the fight continues as we voted to take our solicitors' advice to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court (the highest court in the land).

A quick look at the written judgment doesn't reveal any in depth legal analysis of the sort one might expect from the Court of Appeal - very disappointing after all the efforts of Dinah Rose QC and the rest of our Legal Team.

Lord Justice Pill (we'll keep the bitter pill jokes for later) gave the main judgment. He agreed with Dinah Rose that, to establish indirect discrimination it was sufficient to show an adverse impact of the proposal on the Asian Community as compared with non-Asian communities. Given the scale of the spending reductions the council was required to make and the information available following earlier studies, a decision tht the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not, in his judgment, unlawful. There was no reason to doubt that the council was aware of its statutory duties, including those in relation to race discrimination.
He said it was "fanciful to suggest, taking the best view we can of the appellants' evidence, that it was so obvious that library provision, as distinct from other services, had discriminatory effects upon the Asian community that it needed to be a significant factor in funding decisions as the the apportionment of resources."
He found that "the decision as to which librares to close was carefully considered by the council... a full consultation was conducted and fully reported to the decision makers." and "I do not consider that the council was in breach of duty in failing to give further consideration to the racial dimension, in so far as it affected the Asian community in relation to other communities."

As to the second ground of appeal, Lord Justice Pill was satisfied that "the council exercised its functions in this case with due regard to the requirements under s149 [of the Equality Act 2010]. To put forward a reasoned proposal for closures was a reasonable reaction in the circumstances, including the urgent need to economise. It was not necessary for an Equalities Impact Assessment to be conducted before the forumlation of the proposals on which the public were to be consulted."

As to the third ground he found that the duty under s7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 "was also in mind and the council was aware of the duty specified. Decisions as to closures were taken with that duty in mind, the proposals included improved ways in which the expectations of users might be met. Mitigation measures were proposed in this regard".

So, in other words, the Court of Appeal agreed with the judgment of Mr Justice Ouseley.

But it's not the end of the road! Even though the Court of Appeal refused leave to appeal (which was predictable, and what usually happens).

Our solicitor, John Halford, from Bindmans, explained his view that the case does raise issues of public importance and that we should petition the Supreme Court for leave to appeal because
1. It's the first case ever decided about large scale library closures in the UK
2. The judgment addressed a number of points about he way to make cuts in public services, and was incorrect in what the law requires in relation to the closure of public services because of the risk of indirect discrimination to the Asian community. The court said that Brent could be excused because no one brought it to their attention until the legal case started and that anyway it was not significant enough to justify quashing the decision and making Brent start again.
3. It's important not only becase of what happened in Brent but because very similar decisions are being taken up and down the country in relation to other libraries and public services. If this court is correct then a number of legal protections which parliament put in place won't be as strong as they need to be.

Read John Halford's Press Statement on Bindmans website

With the benefit of that advice, and the amazing offer by John Halford on behalf of himself and the barristers, to continue on our behalf despite uncertainty about whether or not Legal Aid will be granted, it was unanimously agreed to continue with the fight and to take the next step which is to ask the Supreme Court for leave to appeal to it.

In the meantime, John Halford has asked Brent not to further dismantle the libraries. If they don't agree it will be necessary to apply for an injunction restraining them from doing so. The injunction which was in place was discharged today.

John urged us to press on showing the same spirit, and the mood outside court today was for doing just that. There was a vote of thanks to John and the rest of the legal team for their fantastic work on our behalf so far, and their preparedness to help us go to the next stage.

Read the view from Preston Road campaigners

From Kensal Rise campaigners

Twitter has been a-tweet all afternoon, the Kilburn Times has an excellent piece by Tara Brady

The Guardian

BBC News with a particularly apt photo of Alan Bennett looking glum

And Brent? Well, you heard about the unbelievably crass presentation of Team of the Year award to the team who have worked tirelessly to dismantle the library service? Sorry, I mean the "Libraries Transformation Team".

I think we need to end with an uplifting song - optional of course. How about Johnny Cash's Walk the Line?. Not entirely inappropriate.

You'll have realised that the Save Our Six Campaign still needs to raise funds to carry on to the next stage, so please continue to support the fundraising events and just donate here

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Quinces fight back

Last quinces on the tree on 24th November
Ever since Giles Coren (now he really is funny) recently described quinces (and medlars) as "semi-extinct Medieval fruit", quinces up and down the land have been planning their revenge.  Yes, I know, he wasn't really talking about the fruit, but trying to remember the name of a restaurant which AA Gill (why isn't he on twitter?) had recommended - which was Quince, or was it Medlar?  As I'm too frugal to subscribe to the newspaper he was writing in, I can't give you the link...

Part of the main quince harvest in October

As for the medlars, I'm with him... we'll return to them for their one good point later, but for now it's the turn of the quinces
"We're agreed that Giles Coren is a semi-extinct food critic"
First to clear up some confusion.  I'm talking about the big pear-shaped yellow fruits with furry down  on them which grow on trees, not the "quinces" which grow on prickly bushes with white, pink or red flowers.  It's a different thing altogether, but its greeny yellow fruits are also edible and people do make them into jelly (and rave about how a bowl of them will scent a room - if that's the sort of thing you like)

Flowers and fruits of Japanese quince or Chaenomeles japonica

Okay, back to the real quinces.  My quince tree is very vigorous - its response to any type of pruning, even brutal (yes, that's you I'm talking about, Gordon), is to promptly double in size- it doesn't have any pollination issues, it flowers quite late so it doesn't have any frost issues (you know, where fruits which have just formed are damaged, sometimes resulting in no crop at all that year) and it usually produces an overwhelmingly enormous crop of fruit.  If there's a dry spell followed by a lot of rain the fruit may swell up too quickly and split and start to go bad, but in a consistently wet (or dry) summer this doesn't happen much.

Mould caused by cracking
Now, what to do with these quinces?  You do see quite a few recipes in magazines at this time of year for "pork chops with quince" or that type of thing, but they usually turn out to use only one quince "peeled and diced" or "peeled, cored and sliced neatly" per quarter pig - not much use when you're looking at about 200 quinces.  Also, have you ever tried to core or neatly slice a quince?  They are incredibly hard - it's difficult even to cut them in half, yet alone do anything fancy.

Nigella Lawson has a good but strange-sounding recipe in "How to Eat" for baked quinces where you peel and core them (Nigella does warn that "these fruits are rock-hard and coring and quartering  takes strength") then bung everything - including the trimmings -in the dish with a good slosh of muscat sweet wine.    But this is good in the end and the quinces take on that wonderful rich ruby colour (or "glorious burnished terracotta" to Nigella) which foodies rave about.  Also baked quinces with pomegranate seeds in "Feast", equally delicious

What I usually do is cut the quinces into halves (or quarters if I'm feeling strong), cook them in the pressure cooker for about 15 mins (or in a normal pan for a lot longer - maybe an hour) then make either quince jelly or jam or quince cheese or membrillo (as they call it in Spain).
Cooked quince put through a mouli ready for the next stage of membrillo making
This is beginning to sound a bit Medieval - pressure cookers (they've been around a while, haven't they?), moulis.  It gets worse though because once you've added vast amounts of sugar to this pulp you have to cook it for ages, stirring to stop it sticking to the pan and burning, and it behaves like lava, spitting hot jam high into the air.  A welder's glove on the stirring hand is a sensible precaution, as well as covering all nearby surfaces with newspaper.  Last year I was just congratulating myself on my uncharacteristically careful approach when I noticed that the ceiling above the cooker was liberally splattered with orange sticky blobs.

But we haven't finished yet - when "you can see the bottom of the pan as you draw the wooden spoon through the mixture" (as the books say) or you're bored with the whole process or your hand is burnt with molten jam, you can either put the mixture into small jars or (more authentically but with a risk of future mould spots) pour it into trays lined with greaseproof paper and dry it off further.  Then cut it into squares and dust with sugar, pack in boxes.  Jane Grigson in her learned "Fruit Book" says the cooking can take seven hours! 

Or you could just pile them up attractively

Or leave them on neighbours' doorsteps under cover of dark

Or wait for me to give you a pot of jelly or jam or membrillo.  Don't worry - I always scrape any visible mould off first

Or make quince vodka

Or make quince chutney

If you've only read this far to hear the medlars' redeeming feature, it's that their uncannily visually accurate nickname is "dogs' bottoms".  Even Jane Grigson in "Fruit" again admits that "the medlar has long been the happy target of  jokes in much of Europe".  How do we know the medlar was that happy about it though?

"Go on then, laugh at us, see if we care"

Friday, 11 November 2011

Brent Libraries Latest - the Appeal

 photo by Martin Francis from his Wembley Matters blog

Just back from court 63 where Lord Justices Pill, Richards and Davis have spent the last two days hearing the appeal against Mr Justice Ouseley's decision in favour of Brent Council on 13th October.

After a slightly surreal start with the usher announcing a case involving the "London Borough of Trent", conjuring up unlikely images of Ann John as Maid Marion, he corrected himself, and the hearing began.  We have a new barrister - Dinah Rose - and she was very impressive.  She opened the case yesterday with the complicated indirect discrimination point - but she explained it so well that I think all 50 or so supporters - (the court was packed and folding chairs had to be brought it!) may now be able to explain it to someone else.

Well, here goes... the point is that armed with the knowledge (from the last census in 2001) that 28% of the population of Brent is Asian, and that 46% of active borrowers were Asian (from Brent's own figures), the Council should have been alerted to the possibility that closing Barham Park, Tokyngton and Preston Road, three of the four libraries in the most densely Asian wards (leaving only Ealing Road library open- already the second busiest library in Brent, with 261,000 visits in 2009/10 according to Brent's figures) might have amounted to indirect discrimination against Asians.  Having identified that risk, Brent should have considered it in its Equalities Impact Assessment.

Ms Rose recognised the very real economic difficulties faced by local authorities and the fact that hard choices have to be made by them but subject to their statutory duties - in this case Brent's duties under section 149 of the Equalities Act 2010 and under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.  She stressed that the merits of the decision were not being examined (that's going on elsewhere - across the borough wherever there's an activist, library user or defender of places to study and read), purely the process by which it was reached.

The fact that only 21% of the questionnaire responses were from Asians should also have alerted Brent ("the red flag should have gone up" as Ms Rose put it) to the fact that they were under-represented in the consultation.

Brent should therefore have realised that any proposal to close libraries was likely to affect the Asian population disproportionately and they should have considered why this was (ie the cultural, social and economic reasons).  Brent conceded that it wasn't considered at all, but argued that giving no regard to it could nevertheless amount to "due regard" under the legislation.  Ms Rose's argument is that having wrongly concluded that there was no risk of discrimination against Asians the council (wrong again) didn't go on to properly consider it and therefore failed to fulfill their obligations under the legislation.

A witness statement by Sue Harper (Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services) showed that Brent had concluded that the only disadvantage would relate to mobility (ie difficulties in travelling to other libraries) and that only the elderly, young or disabled would be adversely affected.  They failed to consider whether a racial group could be disadvantaged.

In fact the Asian community have been disproportionately affected because a new witness statement showed that Ealing Road library is now overcrowded, with children (mostly Asian) sitting on the floor to do their homework and great pressure on the computers.

Incidentally children have been sitting on the stairs at Willesden Green library doing homework!  So much for the transformation of the libraries by digital and outreach services (well, I know, we never believed that anyway).

Ms Rose handed up demographic maps (a graphic representation is always a good idea) taken from Brent's website showing the density of the Borough's Asian population with the locations of the 12 original and 6 remaining libraries superimposed.  Miss Laing, on behalf of Brent, did not accept that this detailed ward information was before the Executive when they reached their decision to which Ms Rose riposted "well it should have been: we got it from the council's website".  With a good barrister you really can hear the punctuation- that colon was as clear as anything - but back to the issues.

Ms Rose went on to assert that the judgment contains errors of law relating to indirect discrimination as Mr Justice Ouseley found that Brent did a proper Equality Impact Assessment (which she says they did not)

One of their lordships seemed surprised that councils were required to carry out this exercise every time they wanted, for example, to close a swimming pool.  As Ms Rose explained "these practices have been carried out by local authorities since the legislation came in.  They may be novel to your lordship but they're not novel to local authorities: Brent have a form to help them make these decisions"

Dinah Rose also argued that Brent paid no regard to the impact of its policy until the 11th hour of 11th of April 2011- by which time it was far too late because it had already decided to close 6 libraries and had already set the budget.

A third point was that Brent was in breach of its duty under the Public Museums and Libraries Act, and the fourth point that it had engaged in procedural unfairness by not revealing the "seven secret criteria".  The judge below said they were obvious.  Dinah Rose said they were not.

An interesting factual point which Ms Rose highlighted is that Brent did not simply close the six libraries with the lowest usage figures - Kilburn Library (which has lower usage figures than Neasden - now closed) was reprieved because of the special characteristics of some of the users.  This means that Brent feared that there might be indirect discrimination against certain groups who use Kilburn if it was closed, but they failed to carry out the same exercise in relation to the Asian population's usage of Barham Park, Preston Road and Tokyngton.

I'm afraid I missed the afternoon and following morning during which Ms Rose concluded her application and Miss Laing replied, asserted in essence that Brent used the correct procedure and that the judgment below should be upheld.  But I was back for Ms Rose's response on Friday afternoon.  She dealt with Miss Laing's assertion that the amount of regard which a council had to have under the Equalities legislation was a question of degree by pointing out that "it was a major policy decision which on any view would have very significant effects on the lives and opportunities of those who live in Brent".

 Ms Rose described one part of Miss Laing's argument on indirect discrimination as "completely nuts", a phrase which is unlikely to find its way into the judgment (however appropriate it might be), but which cheered us up at the back of the court.

The final point was about the "seven secret criteria".  Ms Rose dealt with the daft suggestion on behalf of Brent that engaging fully with the  groups who had put forward proposals would amount to re-opening the whole consultation by pointing out there were only ten of them!

Tara Brady has written an excellent piece about the first day and the indirect discrimination point on the Kilburn Times website which is well worth reading.

So has Martin Francis, with great photos (see below), on his excellent Wembley Matters blog.

photo by Martin Francis from his Wembley Matters blog

Our solicitor, John Halford of Bindmans, again helpfully stayed behind to answer any questions after the hearing.  He thought it could be about a month before the Judgment is delivered.  It's impossible to predict how it might go, but Dinah Rose put the case very strongly and persuasively for us, and all three Lord Justices were taking a keen interest and asking plenty of questions to test the strength of both sides' arguments. John felt that no further steps should be taken by Brent in the meantime- no more stock should be removed from libraries or from where it's being stored.

So, fingers crossed, and keep supporting the various events - the next is the fabulous sounding Disco Dance Fundraiser next Saturday 19th November in the Preson Mall Community Centre -more details

Which has given me a good idea to end with - Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks.  Just imagine that the "she" who "has gone away and can't do a thing to me" is someone senior in Brent council and you'll enjoy it even more than you usually do.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Brent Libraries Latest - update on 29th October

You'll have seen that while Brent Council continue to be roundly condemned on the streets and in the press for their behaviour in relation to the Six Libraries on their "shut for ever" list, they are boasting about exciting changes under the "Libraries Transformation Project". The odd thing is that I haven't spoken to a single person  who can see anything exciting in it at all...

Sunday opening? It's not worth the loss of half the libraries (especially as we can apparently do everything online anyway)

Libraries, Arts and Heritage sent me an e-mail with a link to this depressing document telling me that the six "shut for ever" libraries are now shut, but that I have until the 30th November to return any books I borrowed from them to the remaining six libraries which are in "accessible locations within the borough".

This week Philip Pullman was quoted in the Guardian (26th October) in relation to the council's claim that closing half its libraries would help improve them "It ought to be quoted in every anthology of political bullshit from here to eternity"

The Evening Standard (27th October) featured Preston Road library and quoted campaigner Geraldine Cooke describing the brilliant pop-up library being run by volunteers and describing the council's decision as "nothing short of a betrayal". Read the whole article. So although Brent have locked the doors of the six libraries, two of them have thriving pop-up libraries run by volunteers. Go and say hello and do a turn on the rota if you can.

And in Private Eye's 50th Anniversary Issue (out 28th October) an excellent  piece on page 35 (rush out and buy it - it's only £1.50 a fortnight - Private Eye isn't available in full on line which is fair enough): 
"Brent crowed that the ruling in its favour now meant it could "push ahead with our excting plans" for the library services - but not so fast!  The stripping of the buildings was quickly halted after campaigners were granted an appeal... As well as starting to empty and board up the libraries, which remain closed until the appeal next month, Brent cancelled many of the events of "Word Up", a borough -wide literary festival taking place in those libraries around Children's Book Week.  These events included making heritage collages, treasure hunts and a talk entitled "Yes you can!"  For many people in Brent who want to use a public library, the answer is now: "No, you can't!"

And while we're talking about Private Eye, there's a good small exhibition (and free!)about the first 50 years of that esteemed organ at the V & A until 8th January.

Meanwhile the Kilburn Times reported (27th October) that Brent council have made 24 members of staff redundant following the closure of the six libraries at a cost of £250,000.
I've just looked back at the "Libraries Transformation Project" report to the Executive meeting on 15 November 2010 (which kicked off this whole sad saga) to see what's said about redundancy payments - whether they come out of the supposed savings of £1million - or not.
There's a paragraph headed "Staffing/ Accommodation Implications" which states that "A reduction in the number of library sites will necessitate a review of staffing across the service, which will be carried out in accordance with the council's Managing change policy", so it was delightfully vague on the subject of redundancy payments.

If you've already received your November edition of the Brent Magazine you will have seen "Library Legal Battle near the end" and read Ann John's statement that the council is "confident that the court of Appeal will uphold the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley that the council should be able to proceed with its library transformation plan". It sums up thus
"So, with every resident living within 1.5 miles of one of our libraries and our libraries open every week, Monday to Sunday, there is no excuse not to make the most of over six million books, free access to the internet, DVD rentals, study space, reading groups and more!"

I'm left speechless by this jolly instruction, clearly either lost in translation from whatever language they speak up in the higher echelons of Brent's library management, or beamed to us by aliens who think that there's really no need for libraries anyway.

But as you know, the fight continues. The dates for the hearing of the appeal are the 10th and 11th of November, and there's a good chance the Court of Appeal will give its judgment quite soon after that.

And, in case the good effects of the two comedy evenings are wearing off, here are some poems made at the Brondesbury Poetry Group's tent at the Queen's Park Book Festival back in June

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Brent Libraries Latest - We got leave to appeal!

Quick update on Wednesday 19th October - but you don't really need me - you can read about this everywhere now - particularly in the Kilburn Times (go, Tara!), Guardian, Evening Standard, Independent, back of your cereal packet, it's everywhere!

But in case you haven't heard, Leave to Appeal against Mr Justice Ouseley's judgment was given today by Lord Justice Elias, a single judge of the Court of Appeal (that's how it works) which is fantastic news.

Our new QC, Dinah Rose, then asked Lord Justice Elias for interim relief to prevent Brent from taking any irrevocable steps (ie which would make it difficult or impossible to re-open the six libraries) until the hearing of the Appeal. She explained that Brent was prepared to agree that Kensal Rise library would not be boarded up on the condition that the appellants (that's the named claimants, but in practice backed up by the whole Save Our Six campaign) pay the cost of security to secure the site.

She also explained that Brent will write to All Souls College (you'll remember that if either Kensal Rise or Cricklewood cease to be used as libraries they revert to the college) saying that no steps have been taken to date which have had the effect of triggering the "reverter covenant".

Miss Rose rightly complained to Lord Justice Elias about Brent's hasty steps to permanently close the six libraries - that they dispatched teams on the very day of the Judgment to construct hoardings (she handed up a photo of Preston Road library boarded up), and that it was only the constant presence of protestors at Kensal Rise which prevented boarding up there. All this activity was going on while Miss Laing, on behalf of Brent, was assuring Mr Justice Ouseley last thursday morning that "it was unlikely that any irrevocable steps would be taken until the Court of Appeal was seized of the matter" (ie until the Appeal was heard)

It was Miss Rose's view that it was "a surprising position for a public authority to have adopted before a Judge" (which was music to our ears)

She also explained (and this is shocking too) that on the day before the Judgment Brent wrote to All Souls college telling them that the disposal strategy for the four unincumbered libraries (ie other than Kensal Rise and Cricklewood) was being implemented, that all six libraries were closed, staff made redundant, libraries being cleared and security provided at the sites, and that they'd welcome a discussion about what to do with Kensal Rise and Cricklewood.

On Monday Brent removed all the stock from Cricklewood Library.

You might almost think that Brent wanted the reverter covenant to come into effect...

It was Miss Rose's view that "Brent's conduct, particularly in relation to Cricklewood and its contact with All Souls college, was surprising, to say the least, given the remarks by the Judge and their silence in the face of it" (because while the Judge was under the impression that Brent wouldn't do anything hasty they had already written to All Souls)

This was part of an argument about the costs of today's hearing, but it's so startling it's worth setting out at some length (sorry, this legal language is clearly catching).

Miss Laing's reply on behalf of Brent was that they were entitled to take those steps, and the Judge agreed that Brent did not have to pay our costs of today's hearing (but that doesn't matter, it was just fascinating (but depressing) to hear what they'd been up to)

There's a Save Kensal Rise Library public meeting tomorrow, Thursday 20th October, 7.30pm, at St Martin's Church, Mortimer Road

Read about Mr Justice Ouseley's Judgment

Finally, our barrister's name has given me an excuse to include these photos taken today in my garden (Philip, I think the pink rose is Spectabilis - a small, repeat flowering climbing rose)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Brent Libraries Latest - Court Decision Thursday 13th October

A large group of "Save our Six" supporters were down at the High Court this morning to hear the decision.

You'll know already from friends or from widespread news reports that the case went against us and the application for judicial review of Brent's decision to close the 12 libraries was dismissed. But it's not the end of our campaign - the next step is to seek leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal and, if that's granted, to pursue an appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley.

A bit more detail. The Judge had already handed down his judgment so the only argument this morning was about costs, an appeal and interim relief (meaning between now and any appeal). The written judgment runs to 153 paragraphs, and at a quick glance the judge seems to be in total agreement with the case put on behalf of Brent. You wouldn't really recognise Brent council as it's described here - a burning desire to offer "an enhanced core library... online and digital services will be expanded to widen access and comparable services will be provided to those who are unable to visit a library... community hubs with cultural activity... staff training to equip a multi skilled workforce" (all this exciting stuff is from the "Libraries Transformation Project" presented to the Executive just over a year ago, on 15 November 2010).

The consultation followed and before the consultation period ended the Council "had had to set its budget... the council was obliged to set a balanced budget" said the judgment. Then, surprise surprise, a further report to the Executive on 11th April 2011 recommended the closure of the six libraries. Officers warned that the consultation feedback might not be representative of library users, of non-users, or the borough's population as a whole (suggesting that not much notice need be taken of the overwhelming support for keeping the libraries open). The April report went on to say "as more material is available through digital routes, delivering a comprehensive service is less reliant on physical buildings." This, despite the fact that the council's own research by Red Quadrant in 2010 had found that "good quality, safe, neutral space was important and that study space was in demand".

Our first ground was that Brent had unlawfully ignored the role which community libraries and groups could play in fulfilling its duties under section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The judge could not "see that it is unlawful for the council to start the process by warning the groups, as in effect it did, that its approach would be that alternatives had to achieve the same level of savings for the same level of service as the Council's own proposals". All the alternative proposals failed "on the ground that the business case was not robust for a variety of reasons".

As regards the consultation, there was a "very extensive consultation programme over three months using a variety of well-publicesed forms of commuintication with the public at large, users and specific roups; there was ample opportunity for anyone who was concerned to find out more about the financial background, the costs of each library, and the basis for their selection for clsure, to seek further information". The judge saw no conflict between "the council keeping an open mind (!) and its consulting on the preferred route identified by officers and approved by the executive for consultation" (ie the 6 closures)

Going on to discuss Brent's "seven secret criteria" as I've nicknamed them, the Judge found that Brent did not close its mind to working with community groups, that the criteria "are not, save for one, more than an elaboration of the test which was fully notified to consultees, and of which I accept any group capable of making a worthwhile contribution would have been aware, without it having to be spelled out to them". Well, I hope that's clear enough! I think it means we're just back to our old friend the "robust business case", except that "the contribution to diversity and inclusion is not one of which the need to promote a robust business case would necessarily have forewarned a group looking to make a contribution to running a library". Err.., but it didn't matter anyway because no proposal failed because of any "failing in the public sector equality duty". They failed because they were not viable proposals by viable groups.
So in conclusion there was no unlawful failure to consult.

Do you remember the very complex arguments under the Equalities Legislation? Well the judge found against us on all of them.

Although it's very tempting I'm not going to comment on the judgment as I don't want to prejudice the next steps which are to ask the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal (the judge having refused leave, but that's normal).

Meanwhile, what's happening on the ground? Well, Brent, heavy-handedly, closed all 12 libraries this morning and posted police outside some of them. This was apparently so that they could tell the staff what was happening. Staff will be allowed to enter the 6 closed libraries to collect their belongings only if accompanied by security guards!

Anticipating something like this, our barrister, Helen Mountfield QC, asked for "interim relief" - that is, for Brent to be restrained from selling any of the buildings until an appeal has been heard. Brent's barrister asked for them to be released as from today from their undertaking not to take any irrevocable steps, and the judge agreed that there was no need for an order. He found Miss Harper's (Director of Environment and Neighbourhood Services) analysis of staff, management and financial difficulties over the last few months compelling, and felt that there was no risk of a "rapid disposal". Provided the buildings were still there the libraries could always be opened again.

I agree that staff have been placed in a very difficult situation and I know that a lot of us have been visiting our libraries regularly to talk to the staff, to try to cheer them up and to thank them for their continued dedication to helping all customers, but I do not agree that the libraries management have done all they could to ease the situation.

There's also a risk that Brent will move very quickly to strip the libraries of their books and fittings and to make it as difficult as possible for any of the 6 libraries to re-open. At Kensal Rise library this afternoon a large group of library supporters are hoping to prevent the library being boarded up later. Little confidence is inspired by Brent's notice in the window saying that the library will be closed in the morning but open again at 2pm, when that was clearly never the intention.

Keep a close eye on what's happening at your local branch. It's terribly sad that this issue has turned into a battle between our council which is supposed to serve us, and the campaigners who are fighting to preserve services which benefit so many residents.

Read an excellent article about the judgment by local author and supporter Maggie Gee (on left above) in the Guardian

Read more about the closures on the Kilburn Times site

Read about the Brent press conference also on the Kilburn Times site

Finally, there are some really good comments from some of us (and some short-sighted "Ann John" types - you know - we can buy books in supermarkets, from charity shops and online so we don't need libraries) on the BBC News site

Read the latest (on Saturday 15th October) and see the "24hour Community Library" set up by supporters of Kensal Rise on the excellent Wembley Matters blog here

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Weeders' Weekly - Sharing Produce

I know I'm often grumbling (humorously, I hope) about either having no produce from the garden, or too much, but what I really love is having stuff to share. The main advantage is that I don't then feel bad about wasting fruit or marrows, but sometimes it works as a swap and I get something different in return - which is great

For example, I've given away blackcurrants and got blackcurrant jam back

I've taken a picnic of bread, cheese, wine and beer to a friend's allotment and come home with broad beans, redcurrants and tay berries (oh, and empty bottles)

And the other friend who came and did map reading and weeding and picking made redcurrant jelly from the allotment friend's fruit and gave me a jar of that (photo above)

I've been given eggs from my friend's chickens (thank you Runnerbean and Chickpea) in return for plums

And a beautifully presented grapefruit (ok, it's cheating a bit - he grew it on his organic fruit farm in Majorca) in return for a jar of home made chutney

And he gave me some almonds

But back to local stuff. Quinces have come back to me transformed into pickle and a delicious thing with almonds and cardamon (no photo available - it's eaten within hours of entering the house)

Quinces are wonderful - I'll do a whole blog post about them shortly, but first I must write that letter about the Brent libraries

Yes, marrows, nearly forgot. I'm not a big marrow fan - I prefer to catch them at the courgette stage. A modest marrow is lurking back right in this basket next to some lovely courgettes. But I have a friend who loves marrows and she has offered an apple cake in return whenever it's needed. Marrows are quite good in a homemade vegetable curry (along with runner beans which also got too big - pre-steamed a bit first)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Down Salusbury Road... and Libraries

But before we stroll down Salusbury Road for various surreal sights a quick word on the Save our Six Libraries Campaign. You'll remember that we're waiting for Mr Justice Ouseley's judgment when the new legal term begins on 3rd October ... well, it's still very important to write to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture. Don't put this off - the more letters he gets the better.
Margaret Bailey explains "This is urgent. He and his officials at the Department for Culture Media and Sport will be taking a decision very soon on whether Brent’s cuts would put them in breach of the 1964 Museums and Libraries Act. He has met with representatives of Brent to discuss the issue but not with resident or campaign groups, and we have contacted them to ask for a meeting. So the more lobbying he gets the better".
For the address and a template letter

The Campaign needs to raise £30,000 as a "community contribution" towards the legal costs (in case our claim fails). This is because there would be a benefit not just to the actual named claimants (who are legally aided), but also to the communities surrounding the 6 threatened libraries if our claim succeeds. I know this sounds complicated, but don't let that put you off! A week ago the total was just under £22,000, which is fantastic, but, as Margaret Bailey says "So if you’re feeling bad about not having donated a fiver towards saving libraries in the borough, now’s your chance..."

To find out how to donate that fiver

To read about the court hearings
Read about Day 1
Read about Day 2
And about Day 3

Ok, where were we? Salusbury Road... on September 13th

At first I thought this was a run over hedgehog ...

In the window of this shop ...

This poster ...
Play's great, by the way, if you missed it at the Tricycle, you can see it at the Vaudeville Theatre until 10th December

Free teas or art installation or someone who couldn't reach the bin?

Healthy van

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...