The battle is on to save Northfields Library

Vice Chair of WEN Eric Leach went to last night’s consultation on Northfields Library, and reports back.

With standing room only at a well attended meeting last night, Ealing Council tried valiantly to defend its proposal to close Northfields Library.  The Council plans to close Hanwell, Northfields, Northolt and Perivale Libraries as part of its need to cut £65 million from its running costs for 2011/12.

Council Leader Bell attempted to respond to residents issues and questions which included:

1. Public Libraries are open to all and provide easy, affordable access to information and books to both young and old. Closing public libraries is a sign of a civilisation going backwards.

2. In 2006/7 the Council spent £610,200 on rejuvenating Northfields Library. How can you now just write off that money and close the library down?

3. £2 million is currently being spent to build a new Log Cabin, Scout hut and children’s centre integrated with Northfields Library. How can you now take the library out of this integrated children’s facility?

4 £5.5 million is to be spent on building a new car park in Southall. Set against that it would cost just £89,000/year to keep Northfields Library open. Who are more important here? Cars or people?

5. Why not cut senior Council executive salaries or reduce the number of highly paid senior staff in order to continue funding the complete library service? Currently 20 senior Council staff collectively earn around £2 million /year.

6. £16.3 million is being spent on new Council offces in Acton, Greenford and Southall. Kill this project and use some of the savings to continue the complete library service.

7. Ward Forum budgets could be used to help keep Northfields Library operational.

Councillor Bell made the point over and over again that volunteers could take over running the library. This was clearly offensive to professional, qualified library staff. It did occur to me that he probably wouldn’t make this suggestion in education (volunteers as teachers?) or in healthcare (volunteer brain surgeons?).

There was plenty of political points scoring by both Conservative and Labour Coucillors and the audience showed its complete disdain for this. At one point a member of the audience threw the mobile microphone at the Councillors on the top table. His aim was poor and he didn’t hit any of them!

There is an Ealing Council public consultation on library closure taking place until 5 May. You can access it at Please fill it in. But be careful as the questions (like those in many recent Council consultations) are ‘loaded’. This particular ‘loading ‘ is that the questions give the impression that libraries MUST close when in fact cost savings out of the Council’s £1 billion turnover could be made elsewhere (see issues/questions above).

Eric Leach
14 April 2011

4 Replies to “The battle is on to save Northfields Library”

  1. Eric,

    Try and stick to the truth please. Both Cllr Reen and I raised issues and were warmly applauded. I don’t say that as a boast, it is simply a record of what happened. Peter Hulme Cross, ex UKIP GLA member and Northfield resident also got applauded when he raised two points. Labour’s Cllr Ranjut Dheer, a Southall councillor who chose not to identify himself did less well when trying to defend Labour’s Southall car park scheme.

    1. @ P Taylor, Shame that in responding to this informative post you managed to turn into yet another tit for tat about which councillors said what. Tories and UKIP apparently ‘applauded’, Labour councillors ‘did less well’. When will our local party politicians get the message that we don’t care for the point scoring?

      I discovered this post online by googling for more information on the proposed closure. All the party blogs seem incredibly loaded. This is the first piece I’ve read that seems to be presenting the facts with very little personal bias.

      As a resident in this area, there seems to be wide spread consensus that this closure of Northfields library is lunacy – regardless of political party allegiance. By denying local communities free access to books is we undoubtedly deprive those who can least afford it and send a signal to young people that reading isn’t valued in the high-street.

      But no party seems to be sending a strong signal about where their priorities lie.

      Gove is public stating that literacy levels in the capital are at a shocking low. But at the same time the Conservatives seem to be obsessed with prioritising a few privileged ‘Free Schools’ and redirecting much needed public money. It would be good to see Tory councillors take a stand on this too.

      At the same time Labour councillors should be ashamed of themselves for prioritising parking over reading.

      And this notion of running core services as volunteer-reliant ‘charities’ smacks of Big Society gone wrong.

      So please encourage your colleagues to drop the rhetoric and actually put the community needs first. Let’s make this the first non-partisan campaign and get everyone who cares about the issue on side.

  2. I didn’t tell any lies here. There were very many contributions from residents and many rounds of applause. I could only highlight a few of them. You and Councillor Reen made some very good points but sadly almost because you are Conservative Party politicians the Labour controlled Council will completely ignore your inputs.

    Councillor Dheer’s anonymity was down to how the meeting was run. Whoever was running the meeting should have insisted that all speakers identified themselves and their vested interests.

    Let’s not fall out here as we seem to on the same side on this issue.

  3. I was a child born in 1950 when the library opened. I was the first child to get an adult ticket because I loved reading and had run out of childrens books to read. My children grew up with books.They are literate and use computers and use gamesboys. They still read now. They don’t run riots in streets or loot. Take away facilities you are asking for troubles. IMHO.

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