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Ask the people if they want Bancroft sold, PM tells Town Hall leaders

PUBLISHED: 18:26 02 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:40 05 October 2010

By Ted Jeory PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has told Tower Hamlets council to consult residents before selling Bancroft Library to Queen Mary College. But although the Government today told the Advertiser it recognised the proposed sale was an emotive issu

By Ted Jeory

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has told Tower Hamlets council to consult residents before selling Bancroft Library to Queen Mary College.

But although the Government today told the Advertiser it recognised the proposed sale was "an emotive issue", it was rejecting our petition calling on the PM to release emergency funds to refurbish Bancroft.

More than 1,300 people had signed our petition on the Downing Street website, which, if successful, would have prevented the likely break-up of Bancroft's treasured archives and history library.

Tower Hamlets council claims it does not have the cash to upgrade Bancroft and is proposing to sell the former Mile End Vestry Hall for what is believed to be a knock-down price of £1.2million.

However, responding to our petition, Number 10 said the matter was one for the council, not Westminster.

In a statement, the Government said: "The Government recognises that the closure or relocation of public libraries and archives is an emotive issue and we encourage local authorities to consult communities about changes to services that will affect them.

"The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, with The National Archives, will continue to support institutions to deliver services and resources the community needs by sharing best practice and advocating the value of well-resourced, responsive museum, archive and library services within communities."

"But the Government remains committed to the principle that locally accountable politicians and managers should be free to decide how to deliver library and archive services in their authority in a way which is appropriate for their communities.

"The future of Tower Hamlets Local History and Archives Library in Bancroft Road is therefore a matter for Tower Hamlets Borough Council."

But campaigners will take heart from the PM's advice to consult prior to any sale.

That is something the council has so far failed to do.

A number of members of the council's cabinet, including Anwara Ali and Rofique Ahmed, who holds the culture brief, are known to be opposed to the sale.

They will debate the issue on November 5 and until then the council is refusing to make any comment.

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