The government is to investigate Northamptonshire Council’s plans to close 21 libraries following strong protest from campaigners and libraries body CILIP.
The plans, voted through by the Council in February, would see the county’s eight large and seven medium libraries retained, and the 21 smaller libraries closed as council-run libraries in a bid to help make £40m savings.
Campaigners had previously argued closing the services could "devastate" communities. Alan Moore, Northampton resident and "Watchmen" creator, said the move would be “completely unacceptable and completely monstrous”, and local authors including Louise Jensen, Sue Moorcroft and Sue Bentley recently signed a letter urging the council to reconsider.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has now revealed he will investigate the decision following CILIP’s formal complaint about Northamptonshire County Council’s plans to cut library services.
In a letter to acting council leader Matthew Golby, Hancock said the government will now "consider the complaint fully" and then decide whether to hold a local inquiry.
CILIP has welcomed the intervention and called on the Council to halt all plans to reduce library services until the outcomes of the government intervention are published.
Nick Poole, CILIP chief executive, said: “Public libraries are a statutory service and local authorities must provide them by law. They are trusted spaces at the heart of communities that make a positive difference to people’s health, wealth and well-being. We call on Northamptonshire County Council to immediately halt all plans to reduce library services until the outcomes of the Secretary of State’s intervention are known. Local residents do not deserve to lose valuable public services for good during a period of local political instability.”
CILIP’s formal complaint focused on the Council’s failure to properly consult, an inaccurate Equalities Impact Assessment, failure to act appropriately on financial advice received, and failure to meet their statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.
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