Jul 14 2011 By Jack Griffith
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BRENT Council's decision to close half of its libraries will be contested at a High Court hearing next week.
The judicial review into the decision has been scheduled for next Tuesday (July 19), and the hearing is expected to last two and a half days. A final ruling is expected shortly after.
John Halford, of law firm Bindmans, will be representing the campaigners. If the ruling goes against the local authority, it could become a landmark case that paves the way for more challenges from communities fighting cost-cutting closures to local services.
Margaret Bailey, co-Chair of the Save Kensal Rise Library campaign group, is one of the three listed claimants in the case.
She told the Observer: "We are optimistic, and have every confidence in our legal team. This is the first time a council decision to close libraries has gone to judicial review, so we are aware that other campaign groups across the country will be eagerly awaiting the outcome. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
"It has been extremely tiring, and we have all worked so hard to get to this point, but it has been a tremendous community effort, and in many respects it has galvanised the whole area."
The first indication that libraries in the borough faced closure came last November, when Brent published details of its 'Libraries Transformation Project', which stated that lesser-used libraries could shut to make efficiency savings.
A consultation started, and users of the individual libraries rallied against the proposals, with the Brent Save Our Six (SOS) Libraries coalition group forming shortly after.
On April 11, Brent formally announced that it would be shutting half of its 12 libraries - namely Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Preston, Cricklewood, Neasden and Tokyngton – to save £1 million a year.
Brent SOS has since been holding fundraising events in order to get the £30,000 needed to bring the fight to court. They have raised nearly two thirds of that target, and stars including boyband JLS, Nick Cave and Depeche Mode have backed the campaign by donating signed merchandise to sell.
*Next Wednesday (July 20), best-selling author Phil Pullman (His Dark Materials) will be talking about his career with novelist Maggie Gee from 7pm onwards. Tickets cost £10.
For more information, go to www.brentlibraries.wordpress.com/events/