Three councils have been told there is little chance of an inquiry into the closures at their library services, despite the scale of the cuts taking place.
Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, has written to authorities in Bolton, Lewisham and the Isle of Wight informing them that he is not “minded to intervene” in any of their cases.
Bolton has lost of five of its 15 branches, while the Isle of Wight and Lewisham have seen a similar number close or pass into volunteer control. There have been strong local protests, with campaigners repeatedly calling on Vaizey to use his powers to intervene and objecting to a lack of response.
In his letter to Bolton Council, the minister said: “The Secretary of State's current view is that MBB (Metropolitan Borough of Bolton) continues to offer a comprehensive and efficient library service. There remain a substantial number of council run libraries across the Bolton area. Opening hours have been maintained or improved in many cases, and reductions in other cases have only been modest. Careful thought has been given to ensure that library services continue to be available to residents on an efficient and accessible basis.”
Vaizey added: “The changes were made following a public consultation. There appear to be no breaches of national library policy and no other good reason why an inquiry ought to be commenced.”
Campaigner Desmond Clarke commented: “Alas, Evaizey has evaded making a decision to intervene in three of the worst cases of authorities closing libraries. In opposition, he demanded that Andy Burnham should intervene in the Wirral but in office, he has failed to show any leadership and to speak up for library users. He has become just the voice of the bureaucrats in the DCMS.”
The secretary of state has asked for any further representations from interested parties to be submitted to the DCMS by September 17th. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.