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Advertiser campaign to save Bancroft forces council to think again

PUBLISHED: 16:30 03 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:40 05 October 2010

Protesters make their point outside the library

Protesters make their point outside the library

By Ted Jeory TOWER Hamlets council has bowed to mounting public pressure and backed away from making any decision on the future of Bancroft Library at its cabinet meeting next month. Labour leaders had been due to discuss the proposed £1.2m

By Ted Jeory

TOWER Hamlets council has bowed to mounting public pressure and backed away from making any decision on the future of Bancroft Library at its cabinet meeting next month.

Labour leaders had been due to discuss the proposed £1.2m sale of the Victorian building to Queen Mary College on November 5.

But a council spokeswoman told the Advertiser today: "That's no longer going to happen."

She said they were going to do as Gordon Brown had requested yesterday and consult the public "on a range of options" for the history library and archives before making any decision.

When the Advertiser asked whether one of those options would include keeping the service at a refurbished Bancroft, she replied: "Absolutely."

And if that was the option the public said they wanted, the council would probably "listen" to that advice, she said, adding: "The proposed sale to Queen Mary College is still on the table.

"We're going to work very hard to ensure that the Local History Library and Archive Service stays together, in both the short and long term."

It is now unlikely that any discussion about Bancroft will take place at cabinet level for several months.

The latest development is a huge boost to the four month campaign to save Bancroft, and one council insider conceded it was "democracy in action".

The Advertiser discovered in June that council bosses were planning to offload Bancroft in what many considered to be a knock-down deal with Queen Mary College.

After we launched our campaign, council leader Lutfur Rahman said selling Bancroft to the university would allow the prestigious Holocaust collection at the Wiener Library to relocate there from its home in the West End.

But the Advertiser now understands that the Wiener is keener on another building in Russell Square, something that would undermine the Town Hall's arguments.

During the campaign, other claims made by the council have also proved to be flimsy.

They said they were considering moving the history library collection to the Museum in Docklands, but we discovered no serious discussions had ever taken place about that.

The Prime Minster announced yesterday that he was rejecting Advertiser's 1,319-name petition calling on him to provide the council with emergency funding to upgrade Bancroft and allow the famous history library and archives to remain in place.

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