Culture secretary 'not minded to intervene in Sheffield'

Culture secretary 'not minded to intervene in Sheffield'

Libraries minister Ed Vaizey has said culture secretary Sajid Javid is "not currently minded" to order an inquiry into library closures in Sheffield.

Under proposals from Sheffield City Council, more than half of the city's libraries could be closed unless community groups come forward to run them, with just 12 of 28 libraries to be kept under council control.

In September, the minister told Sheffield to delay its cutbacks, after complaints from local library campaigners, the Broomhill Library Action Group. The culture secretary has the duty to superintend the library service, with the power to order an inquiry if a council fails to provide a comprehensive service.   

However in a letter to Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, Vaizey has said he is not minded to make an intervention in the case of Sheffield. "The judgement is, in the first instance, for the local council to make," he wrote, adding: "The Secretary of State notes that SCC is akin savings of £240m by the end of 2015 with £1.67m to be delivered from the libraries budget in both 2014/15 and 2015/16. In delivering a library service with these reduced resources, SCC has been mindful of its duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service in the broader context of a need to balance its budget."

Vaizey said Sheffield's volunteer-run and "co-delivered" libraries "represent a valuable supplementary resource for residents of Sheffield and the Secretary of State supports the work of those local groups in taking over primary responsibility for the libraries."

The culture minister also said there was "no evidence" to justify campaigners' claims that the consultation process conducted by the council over the libraries was flawed.

Further representations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are being invited before the decision is finalised.