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In full: Wirral library report
30.11.09 | Benedicte Page
The Wirral libraries inquiry report, published in full today (30th November), has found that Wirral council's plan to close libraries earlier this year was "in breach of its statutory duties under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964."
The 90-page report by public policy consultant Sue Charteris said the council "failed to make an assessment of local needs" before deciding to rationalise its library service by investing £20m in 13
Neighbourhood Centres, effectively replacing a service comprising 24 libraries.
Culture minister Margaret Hodge said that since Wirral council has now withdrawn its proposal to close 11 libraries, "it is no longer necessary for the Secretary of State to take a view on proposals which have since been dropped. There is therefore no finding that Wirral MBC are in breach of
their statutory duty."
Early responses from library campaigners were positive. Desmond Clarke said the report was "extremely good and thorough. It emphasises the fact that local authorities and their chief officers and strategic agencies have really got to listen to the view of those who use the libraries."
Tim Coates said: "Congratulations to Sue Charteris and to the campaigners on the Wirral. The first sighting of the long-awaited report makes good reading. It will be rare to find a council across the country that would satisfy the tests she has applied - that the council library service should understand (from evidence) the library needs of its residents and act logically in response to them."
He also questioned whether either the London Libraries Change Programme and the DCMS libraries review would satisfy these two tests, saying: "All the evidence so far suggests that . . . [they] would not."