Lewisham campaigners press Hunt to intervene on closures

Lewisham campaigners press Hunt to intervene on closures

Lewisham library campaigners have renewed their call for secretary of state Jeremy Hunt to intervene over the borough's library closures.

Local campaigners Patricia and Peter Richardson have written to the culture minister Ed Vaizey, copying Hunt, asking him to intervene after the Mayor last week accepted recommendations that the libraries should close and be replaced by community facilities. The five libraries are due to close their doors on 28th May.

The campaigners told Vaizey: "This is a direct attack on front line services, which defies government advice. In that many residents of Lewisham have previously written to the Secretary of State and yourself asking for intervention within his powers, and that he has so far said that he would await their decision about how the council would make their budget this year, one assumes he will now intervene."

The Richardsons also questioned the validity of the public consultation carried out by the council ahead of the closure decision. They told Vaizey: "The level of consultation is questionable to say the least. In spite of 20,000+ petition signatures against closures, in spite of 10 consultation meetings producing the same result, in spite of marches, read-ins, a sit-in, in spite of an alternative budget being presented, in spite of contentious figures in the council’s own budget figures, in spite of alternative suggestions for saving money, in spite of overwhelming opinion against closure the council will go ahead if it is not stopped."

Solicitors acting for the campaigners have now written to the council requesting all documentation on the consultation under Freedom of Information legislation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of intervening to protect his own constituents after Oxfordshire County Council kicked planned library cuts into the long grass.

The Tory-run council last week deferred the decision on a proposal to stop funding 20 of the county's 43 public libraries.

The Independent on Sunday
quotes Labour culture spokesman Ivan Lewis, who accused Cameron of giving preferential treatment to his constituency. He said: "Local library campaigners across the country will be enraged by David Cameron's arrogance and hypocrisy, lecturing us all about the necessity of these cuts while intervening to save himself from embarrassment in his own backyard. It's the same old Tories: one rule for them and a different set of rules for the rest of us."

The paper claims Cameron expressed his annoyance at having to deal with fallout from the proposed libraries within his constituency. Oxfordshire has had some of the most high-profile library campaigns against cuts to date, with supporters including authors Philip Pullman, Colin Dexter and Mark Haddon, as well as Cameron's election agent Barry Norton.