I read with amusement the Conservative deputy leader’s response to Cllr Sue Anderson’s assertion that Harrow’s opposition party had failed to offer any useful ideas for dealing with the council’s budget shortfall.

Not so, protests the Tory deputy leader, we suggested not hiring a chief executive (pay: £160,000) and criticised the £12,000 expenditure on a regeneration launch. Fortunately, the Conservatives were not called upon to balance the budget because, even if both their “ideas” were implemented, £172,000 is a long way short of the £500,000 to be saved by closing the four libraries.

The first visible evidence of Conservative support for the axed libraries was on the day they were closed, by which time the engagement of the Tories was as redundant as their reasoning was vacuous.

No so, they would say. Our purpose was never to save the libraries.

It was to carp on again about the re-hiring of a chief executive.

Remember, the last Conservative administration, (which nobody voted for), got rid of the chief executive (which nobody asked for), as the first and only significant act of its short time in office.

At the time, the Conservatives arranged a £30,000 compensation payment to add to his lump sum pension payment of £138,651 and a yearly pension of £65,179, and called that good value.

Of course, the Conservatives know only too well the result of riding roughshod over voter opinion.

That’s is why they are again reduced to barracking from the sidelines.

But there is nothing to be gained from arguing over the colour of the pots and kettles.

It is true that the closure of the libraries was a choice made by this Labour council, in the face of voter opposition.

It is also true that the usage figures did not support the case for closure.

Visitor numbers at three of the four closed libraries were actually on the increase, according to the council’s own data.

Apparently, Conservatives cannot read, or they would have pointed this out. And there are gross differences in the efficiencies across the libraries. Nobody has sought to address them. Libraries have never been more than indulged by any Harrow administration.

The buildings, services and facilities are and always have been poor at all Harrow libraries.

Harrow was the last London borough to introduce ticketless issuing.

The public computers were a public disgrace for years, functioning only intermittently.

The toilets at the civic centre library were a disgrace of a different kind, regularly flooding and needing to be repaired.

The closure of the Bob Lawrence library was a charitable act, to put this wholly unsuitable building out of its inadequate misery.

Harrow’s flagship town-centre library is an embarrassing warren, spread incomprehensibly over four floors that are impossible to adequately supervise.

I would not want my young child to visit it alone.

Neighbouring Brent libraries, despite also suffering closures, spend £550,000 a year on books, compared to Harrow’s miserly £323,000.

Brent had e-books and e-magazines before Harrow, has refurbished all its libraries and built two new libraries and a new civic centre. Neighbouring Hillingdon spends twice as much as Harrow on new book stock each year, has three times as many libraries as Harrow, has refurbished and re-equipped them all, and built a new central library as part of a £50million investment in leisure services.

Both Brent, (Labour) and Hillingdon, (Conservative) councils have achieved this, despite both having a chief executive.

Harrow Conservatives may have to come up with a more substantial solution to Harrow council’s perennial poor performance problem.

Mike Robinson

via email