An MP criticised Harrow council in a Westminster speech for ‘rubber stamping’ the closure of four libraries.
Four of Harrow’s ten libraries will close this Saturday - Bob Lawrence library and Hatch End, Rayners Lane and North Harrow libraries.
In a speech at Westminster Hall yesterday, Harrow East MP Bob Blackman condemned the closures, supporting library campaigners in their attempts to run the libraries as community ventures.
The Conservative said the council had allowed a “swathe” of public facilities to close with its recent budget, in which the council made cuts of £83 million.
Mr Blackman said: “There is strong feeling locally that the decision had been made even before the consultation had started, and this is really just a process of rubber stamping the decision made by the council.
“All aspects of this are being ignored. There was an excellent campaign in Edgware to preserve the Bob Lawrence library in particular, in which campaigners raised a petition of more than 5,000 signatures to keep the library open.
“There was an excellent business case put together by the community, but the sad problem is that it’s the council that decides if the community right to bid should be allowed to go forward and surprise surprise, the council rejected it.”
The Conservative MP also criticised the council for blaming the government for cuts to the budget.
He also singled out plans to create a new library in the centre of Harrow, which he stated has not yet been granted planning permission.
He added: “The people of Harrow greatly value their libraries and don’t want to see them removed.
“A library is not just a centre for giving out books and for people to read.
“It is also a place where young people study, where students who don’t have facilities at home need to go to a library to do their homework and their project work. Young people at school also need it to do their homework and indeed members of the public go for various different community action.”
Harrow West MP Gareth Thomas also attended the debate, while culture minister Ed Vaizey pledged to look into the closures.
Speaking in response to Mr Blackman’s speech, Cllr Sue Anderson said: “Central government has imposed £83m of cuts on Harrow Council and our residents over the next four years – over half of our controllable budget.
“The Conservative councillors and MP have refused to condemn these cuts and their effect on our community, and haven’t offered an alternative budget or solution to the funding crisis imposed on us by the Tory Government.
“Rather than playing politics the Tories should be either submitting their own proposals to keep our libraries open, or work with us to protect our services from government cuts.”