Axed libraries "disproportionate" as council cuts capped

Axed libraries "disproportionate" as council cuts capped

<p>Confirmation that local council budget cuts will be capped at 8.9% shows that the major cutbacks proposed to public library services are &quot;disproportionate&quot;, say library campaigners.</p><p>Communities secretary Eric Pickles confirmed yesterday (13th December) that &pound;85m-worth of extra funding would be awarded to councils facing heavy reductions to ensure that every local town hall&#39;s budget cut was capped at 8.9%. The average cut to council funding will be 4.4%.</p><p>Campaigner Desmond Clarke commented: &quot;It is very clear that the cuts being taken by the public library service are totally and absolutely disproportionate. In a number of councils including Leeds and Oxfordshire up to 40% or 50% of libraries are being closed.&quot; </p><p>Clarke expressed frustration with the impact of the Future Libraries Programme being run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) together with the Local Government Association (LGA), saying: &quot;It&#39;s a classic case of fiddling while Rome burns.&quot; </p><p>Unveiling the cuts yesterday, Pickles told MPs: &quot;This will be a progressive settlement, ensuring fairness between different parts of the country . . . Taxpayers are no longer prepared to write a blank cheque for the public sector. But they do want less interference in their local communities from Whitehall government.<br /><br />&quot;So the coalition government is delivering the most significant shift in power from officials in London to elected local councils in a generation.&quot;</p><p>However, Baroness Eaton, the Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association, told the <em>Times</em>: &quot;This is the toughest local government finance settlement in living memory.&quot;</p><p>Labour attacked the plans, with shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint saying: &quot;You are imposing unprecedented cuts on town halls the length and breadth of the country.<br /><br />&quot;Today we find out what the government really plans to devolve to local councils&mdash;the most devastating cuts in funding for a generation and the blame for difficult decisions.&quot; </p>