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Wirral inquiry to report in July
11.06.09 | Benedicte Page
The report for the local inquiry into Wirral council's public library service held earlier this week is to be published alongside the main Library Service Modernisation Review, a spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said.
The inquiry, by public policy consultant Sue Charteris, will examine whether Wirral council is fulfilling its obligations under the 1964 public libraries act to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service, given its plan to close 11 local libraries. The DCMS spokesperson said the report would be published in tandem with Barbara Follett's ongoing Review into libraries, and that the intended publication date for both is mid-July.
In a submission to the meeting library campaigner Tim Coates called for the public library service in Wirral to be given to a neighbouring local authority to manage. Coates argued that Wirral council was "not competent to serve as a public library authority". He said the recommendations it had made for library closures should be withdrawn while a new management structure was drawn up. Dr Keith Bartlett, the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council’s Director of Engagement (North), gave evidence that Wirral council’s plans were neither "comprehensive" nor "efficient" as required under the 1964 Public Libraries Act.
But Alan Stennard, Wirral council’s director of regeneration, said "rationalising" libraries would save the borough £800,000 a year from its budget. Stennard faced questioning from Charteris on how the council had mapped how people would use libraries in the future and the transport implications of closing individual local libraries. The council also engaged Richard Clayton QC to speak on its behalf.
The inquiry, set up by former culture secretary Andy Burnham, is investigating whether the planned closure of 11 libraries in the Wirral is consistent with Wirral council’s statutory duties to provide a “comprehensive and efficient" library service.