Burnham sets up Wirral inquiry

<p>Culture secretary Andy Burnham has finally decided to intervene in the public dispute about proposed library closures in the Wirral. Burnham has called a &quot;local inquiry&quot; to test whether the council&#39;s plans are consistent with its statutory duty to provide all residents with a comprehensive public library service. It is the first inquiry of its kind since 1991.</p><p>If the proposed changes are found to fall short of the council&#39;s duties to its public library services, Burnham said the report would outline &quot;practical steps that should be taken by the Wirral to put things right&quot;. </p><p>Burnham said: &quot;Public libraries play a central role at the heart of our communities, providing a rich source of information, wisdom and learning. This is all the more true in difficult economic times. They should never be an optional extra for local authorities.&quot; He added: &quot;I have ordered this inquiry to seek further information to help me draw my own conclusion as to whether the plans in the Wirral are consistent with its statutory duties.&quot;<br /><br />Burnham said views from all interested parties would be invited and heard, but stressed that this &quot;will be no long, drawn-out affair&quot;. He said: &quot;I want a clear report with a simple and practicable action plan, if required.&quot;</p><p>The person appointed to carry out the inquiry will be announced shortly. The move has been welcomed by library campaigners. Burnham has previously said he would only keep the Wirral library closures &quot;under consideration&quot;. </p>