A formal complaint has been raised against the closure of libraries in Preston and Lancashire by Lancashire County Council.Advertisement
Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace says the county council has broken its requirement under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.
Libraries in Fulwood, Penwortham and Bamber Bridge closed on Friday 30 September along with many other community buildings across the county.
The county council has received notification that the Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson MP is treating the comments made by Mr Wallace as a formal complaint.
A letter from Mr Wilson states: “As part of the process for consideration of the complaint, I have written to the Leader of Lancashire County Council to notify her that we are treating representations received as a formal complaint. Officials will also be requesting from LCC all the relevant information regarding changes to the library services. This detail will be carefull considered and analysed by the Department.
“There is not set timetable for the Secretary of State to consider a complaint that a local authority may be failing to carry out its duties in accordance with the Act. The timescale will vary and is dependant upon a number of factors including the complexity of issues to be addressed and the volume of detail to be analysed. All relevant detail will be carefully considered to enable the Secretary of State to decide whether a local inquiry is necessary to resolve any real doubt about the council’s compliance with its statutory duty under the Act.
“You should be aware that it is for the Council’s elected members to decide whether or not to continue with the implementation of their plans, prior to the outcome of the Secretary of State’s consideration of the complaint and determination as to whether or not to order a local inquiry.”
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The decision to close 21 libraries was taken with the county council saying it could not afford to keep the doors open due to cutbacks in its grant from central government.
Mr Wallace said: “All along my concern has been for those communities across the county who will lose their libraries not just those in my own constituency and I am delighted that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has decided to review this decision.”
Leader of the county council’s Conservative group county councillor Geoff Driver said: “This is a decision for common sense. There are sufficient funds in this year’s budget to keep all Lancashire’s libraries open and operational until 31st March 2017 and we have put down a Notice of Motion to that effect at next week’s Council meeting.”
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The county council said it was ready to defend its plans for libraries across the county.
Deputy leader of the county council county councillor David Borrow said: “We have received a letter from the Minister for Civil Society acknowledging that they have received complaints about the changes we’re making to Lancashire’s library service, and that these will be formally considered by the Secretary of State.
“We have carried out a great deal of detailed work to ensure our proposals for libraries fulfil the council’s statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, and I’m happy for them to be scrutinised by the Secretary of State.
“The changes we are making will contribute towards the huge savings the council needs to make, while ensuring that people still have good access to library services through an extensive network across the county. A modern library service is about far more than providing books in buildings, and we are planning to invest in and extend the reach of our mobile libraries, and meet the increasing demand to access digital resources, to ensure the council continues to meet its statutory duties. I hope that our offer to help establish community-run libraries will add to what will already be a comprehensive network.”
What do you think of the library closures? Do you live near one? What do you think of the county council’s plans? Let us know in the comments below