The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has decided not to intervene in library closures in Bolton and the Isle of Wight.
Library campaigners in the two areas had hoped that the Secretary of State would review both sets of closures and begin an inquiry, arguing that the closures meant the local authorities were failing to provide a "comprehensive and efficient service" as required by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.
In Bolton, five out 15 libraries have been closed in the most recent set of cuts. Campaigners argued that the closures meant libraries were inaccessible to many, and disproportionately impacted on the poorest areas of Bolton.
But in a letter posted on the DCMS website on Friday (31st May), Ed Vaizey said: "The council continues to offer a comprehensive and efficient library service. There remain a substantial number of council-run libraries across the Bolton area. Opening hours have been maintained or improved in many cases, and reductions in other cases have only been modest. Careful thought has been given to ensure that library services continue to be available to residents on an efficient and accessible basis."
In the Isle of Wight, five libraries were handed over to volunteers, while only six remain run by the council. Vaizey said in a letter: "In the view of the Secretary of State it is clear that the Isle of Wight continues to offer a comprehensive and efficient library service through its core libraries and mobile library service."
Campaigners accused Vaizey of hypocrisy for failing to intervene. Geoffrey Dron of the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign said: "Is it not hypocritical of the minister not to intervene when, in opposition, he had been so vociferous in his criticism of closures? Mr Vaizey had then described closures in areas of deprivation as being 'cultural vandalism'.
"It seems that such decisions are made in the comfort of Whitehall offices without any official bothering to step out and actually meet the people affected by the closures. There is a vast chasm between those struggling in deprived areas of towns such as Bolton and the faceless officials in the DCMS who, besides taking nearly 18 months to reach this poorly considered decision, at one stage even managed to lose a major part of our submission."
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