Friday, 2 September 2011

DCMS still in libraries dialogue with Brent Council

I have received this response from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport regarding my request for a public inquiry into Brent library closures LINK

Dear Mr Francis,

Thank you for your August letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, expressing concern about library closures. Your letter has now been passed on to the libraries’ policy team in the DCMS as they are responsible for monitoring and assessing all correspondence to the Department on library services. 

DCMS officials have met with officers from Brent Council and are in the process of considering all the relevant evidence and all the issues. The Department will continue to maintain dialogue with the local authority. Once all the relevant issues have been considered, the Secretary of State will decide whether or not to intervene, or whether further actions on the part of Brent Council are required. It may be helpful for some background information to be provided to you on the subject of library services.

The Government is committed to championing the public library service. Libraries can and do contribute to a range of local and national government priorities – for example, they can help people access a whole range of educational materials, find employment or get online support for many issues such as health and well-being improvement; and libraries work with parents, schools and colleges to support education and learning agendas. All these connections can have positive benefits for communities.

Decisions about library services, both before and after consultation with local communities, are a matter for the local authority in the first instance. The Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, has  several duties imposed on him  under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 this includes the duty to  superintend the delivery of the public library service provided  by local authorities. Developments concerning library services across England are being carefully monitored and assessed by officials. The Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey MP, has written to every local authority in England to remind them of their responsibility under the Act to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. In that letter he repeated the key findings from the report of the inquiry that was held in 2009 into proposed closures of libraries by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council: that when re-organising library services it is important that authorities have a strategy, that they have considered the needs of their local communities and that they have consulted local people.

The closure of a library does not of itself signal an automatic breach of the 1964 Act. Sometimes a library authority will close or consider closing a library to ensure a more efficient service across its geographical area overall and this will be based on a local assessment of library needs at the material time.

The Department takes very seriously compliance by local authorities with their statutory duty to understand the local need for public library services and to provide a comprehensive and efficient service to match those needs. DCMS is aware of the judicial review claim against the London Borough of Brent. The Department has also received correspondence in relation to public library services in Brent and is in the process of considering these.

Brent’s  plans are being considered as part of our monitoring processes for library authorities across England. No decision to intervene in the case of Brent has been taken but we are monitoring this case along with others. Consideration by the Secretary of State of whether or not any statutory powers should be used to assess an authority’s compliance with the 1964 Act will be made on a case-by-case basis and after careful consideration of all relevant facts and issues.


Anonymous said...

Pretty much word for word what they've been sending to people from other authorities who've requested intervention. No sign yet.

Anonymous said...

'no decision to intervene has been taken' unfortunately sounds like fence sitting and quite consistent with no intention to make a decision one way or the other.