Coalition Minister is ‘Minded to’ Duck Out of Library Inquiry

Nov. 6, 2014 - PRLog -- Ed Vaizey MP - The Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy has recently announced that he is ‘minded to’ not order an inquiry into changes in Sheffield City Council’s provision of library services.

Earlier this year, the council had decided to reduce its staffed library service from 28 to 12 libraries. This decision was challenged by the Broomhill Library Action Group (BLAG).

BLAG instructed Public Interest Lawyers to examine whether the Minister should intervene into this case.  There is a clear concern that 25% of Sheffield would not have a local library service and that the changes to the service fell short of the council’s statutory obligations.

Whilst the Minister has the power to intervene when a library authority has failed or can be seen to have failed in its obligations under S.10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, Ed Vaizey MP has declined to do so in this case. He has decided that Sheffield City Council’s provisions for public libraries do not fall below the statutory standard and that the service remains both efficient and comprehensive for the purposes of the Act.

In a Freedom of Information Act request made by PIL it transpires that despite having received seven requests for an intervention, the Minister has not intervened in any. We are troubled by this recent trend in neglecting our public libraries.

PIL is disappointed that at this stage the Minister is minded not to intervene in this issue. The provision of library services is a hugely important function of local councils, and it is disappointing that the absence of a local library service in a quarter of Sheffield is still considered ‘comprehensive and efficient.’

PIL therefore calls on those who are equally troubled by this trend of neglect, whether in Sheffield or any other part of England & Wales, to contact the Minister to ask him to intervene in these proposals and to take a more active role in ensuring that local authorities are complying with their duty to provide an effective library service.

A final decision – as to whether the Minister will intervene – will be made on the 16th December 2014. PIL calls on all those with an interest in public libraries to make submissions by 5.00pm, 20th November 2014.

Commenting on the Minister’s decision, PIL’s Paul Heron said “Public libraries are the universities of the working class. They are an essential community service and offer a refuge to children, young adults and older people in particular. They offer an essential community service. It is scandalous that the Coalition government has not intervened and held inquiries. This is particularly outrageous given that in Sheffield and indeed up and down the country libraries are facing cuts, closures and an uncertain future.”

For more information please contact Paul Heron of Public Interest Lawyers on or 02074045889

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