On 7 May 2014, residents and politicians and would-be elected converged on St Erconwald Church to debate whether a rescue package could be found for Preston library under any future council regime. The following speakers were taken in turn: Paul Summers (Trade Union and Socialist Council), Martin Francis (Brent Green Party’s spokesperson for children and families), Cllr Paul Lorber (Lib Dem leader), Cllr Roxanne Mashari (Labour) and Cllr Harshadbhai Patel (Conservative, Preston ward).
Party political point scoring was in evidence amongst the three mainstream parties from the off, with Summers and Francis articulating more forcefully the case for a wider politics beyond party. Francis spoke passionately about the need for a professional library service that was paid for publicly, that young and elders could access with ease and frequency, and that meant within walking distance. He reminded us about the onslaught on library provision that Brent has suffered and recounted eye-witness accounts of students in Neasden who had been deprived not just of the means to do their homework (with no alternative but library computers) but also of a place to go at all. He ended by explicating a quality of life theme that was central to the Green vision.
Cllr Roxanne Mashari had perhaps the least enviable task of defending to what was for most in the room the indefensible. Her pitch was accompanied by slides about the wider context of austerity Britain and met with derision from the less patient in the audience. In the subsequent Q & A, Mashari though more confident was accused of “reading from a script”. An olive branch was extended to those present from the Preston campaign, for the current boarded up library building to be offered up to a community stakeholder for a peppercorn rent, within a twelve month window. To which a lcoal journalist asked why could this proposal have been made before now? Another Brent resident added, why could this proposal be made for Barham also?
Previous postings on Brent Greens by Shahrar Ali and Martin Francis on the Brent Library campaigns available here.
Previous press letters by Shahrar Ali:
- Impact of library closures is felt by community now
- Councillors have lost the confidence of the people
- Give us the libraries we want
Pictures available in high definition for press purposes, on request.