The row over Gloucestershire library campaigners' attempt to invoice the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the work they have done to protect the county's library service has continued, with the DCMS rebutting the campaigners' claim in a letter.
Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries had written to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and culture minister Ed Vaizey to ask for the DCMS' outsourcing invoice address, "seeing as you have outsourced to the people of Gloucestershire your responsibilities to superintend the delivery of statutory library services".
The campaigners said they intended to invoice the DCMS for the £30,000 they have been asked to pay for legal fees to challenge the county council's plans through judicial review, as well as for travel costs they incurred travelling to a meeting with the DCMS in London in May. The campaigners said that at the meeting they "spelt out to your officials the many fundamental flaws in the county council's plans and conduct, which your department have so far failed to act on, despite our highlighting of the urgency of the matter many times."
DCMS library and arts policy officer Dempster Marples wrote back saying the department "regrets that you have felt it necessary to write in such terms. The statutory duties placed upon the Secretary of State are not duties which can be displaced and no attempt has been made to do so." Marples said the DCMS was not in a position to reimburse expenses, saying: "If those members had asked for their expenses to be reimbursed before requesting the meeting with officials and before travelling to London, it would have been clear at the outset that this was not possible. Furthermore the department is not able to reimburse your legal fees."
The Gloucestershire campaign group said the meeting with the DCMS had proved "a waste of time."
"The DCMS has said if we had wanted our fees reimbursed we should have said before the meeting and they would have informed us this was not possible. Well, we say to the DCMS that if they had informed us they merely sought to meet with us in order to nod sympathetically in our direction, pat us on the head and send us back to the Shires, then we would not have wasted our time and money making the trip," they said. "We have asked repeatedly for an update on what they are doing and are just told "these things take time". We have been more than patient, meanwhile OUR LIBRARIES ARE CLOSING!"