Lewisham library campaigners are preparing to lobby the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in Whitehall at noon today (18th May), after a formal demand for government intervention over the borough's plans for the service failed to draw action. Local campaigner Peter Richardson said: "We have asked to meet with [culture minister] Ed Vaizey but have had no answer. We think Ed is dead because he's not answering anything."
Five Lewisham libraries are affected by the cost-cutting plan, which will see a computer recycling firm taking on the running of three, while another transfers into the hands of the Age Exchange charity. The future of one library, New Cross, remains unclear.
Richardson and other campaigners sent a legally drafted request for intervention to the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in March, and were called in to the DCMS on 13th April to discuss their concerns. Lewisham council also met with the DCMS in early April. But thus far, Richardson said, nothing more had been heard from the department. "None of us can understand the reticence here," he said. "We're all grown-ups, we're not just going to go away. This is an attempt to get something done, we feel the case for his intervention is undeniable but have not had a reply."
The demonstration is set to get coverage on BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" today. Afterwards the protestors plan to hand a protest document into Number 10 Downing Street for the attention of the prime minister. "It's a resume of the pertinent facts concerning Lewisham's closures," Richardson said. "We are hoping we can get the PM to prompt his minister to do what he's paid to do, or fire him."
The culture secretary has a duty under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to superintend the public library service, with the power to intervene if local authorities are failing to offer a "comprehensive and efficient" service to all their residents.