Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, responding today (6th November) to findings by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee report into library closures warned that ‘Government cuts are borderline forcing Local Authorities to risk breaking the law’.
The report highlighted that many councils were unaware about what was expected of them and those who cut library services are at risk of failing in their legal duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” service.
“Libraries often act as the hub of a community so threats of closure often lead to a passionate community response – and rightly so. Therefore, this is an important cross-party report that clearly highlights Government failure to act and to provide guidance for under pressure local authorities. This is particularly evident on the subject of libraries under threat or being closed, and on what a “comprehensive and efficient” service should look like – and the legal requirements surrounding that.
“This vacuum of leadership from Government ministers is having a dramatic impact on local authorities being able to manage library services on a shoestring budget. This is clearly evident in my constituency where Hemlington Library is under threat due to budget cuts. We now see that there is a strong community campaign against the proposed closure and it would be a devastating loss for the area if it was to be lost.
“Unfortunately, Ministers seem unwilling to act. The only commitment they have given to dealing with library closures is a report by the end of 2014, which is frankly, a disgrace. Two more years of strained council budgets will have passed by then. The Government needs to work alongside the Arts Council to develop ideas and structures for libraries to remain a practical and affordable service as well as a valuable community resource.”