Statutory basis of library service 'outdated', says LGA

<p>Wirral council&#39;s leader Steve Foulkes has condemned the Sue Charteris report on Wirral&#39;s library services as &quot;fundamentally flawed in its logic&quot; and &quot;in any places . . . just plain wrong&quot;, according to a report in the Local Government Chronicle.</p><p>The journal also reports that the Local Government Association has condemned the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act as &quot;fit for nothing but the archives&quot;.</p><p>The condemnations come shortly after the publication of the report from the Government-initiated inquiry into Wirral council&#39;s plan, now abandoned, to close 11 of its local libraries in a restructure of its service. Sue Charteris found that the Wirral plan had been &quot;in breach of its statutory duties under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964&quot; because the council &quot;failed to make an assessment of local needs&quot;. Her findings have been widely welcomed by those who fear widespread cuts to branch libraries by cash-strapped councils.</p><p>But Councillor Foulkes said that keeping all the libraries open would cost &pound;4.7m over three years and that the losers would be &quot;the silent majority who do not use their library&quot;. Meanwhile Chris White, chair of the LGA&#39;s culture, tourism and sport board, said: &quot;The LGA wants councils to be freed up to make decisions on how best to provide information services to local people without being judged according to laws drawn up half a century ago, before the arrival of the internet and digital media.&quot;</p><p>Yesterday it emerged that one of the questions raised in culture minister Margaret Hodge&#39;s new consultation paper on libraries, &quot;Empower, Inform, Enrich&quot;, is: &quot;Is it important that libraries remain a statutory obligation for local authorities?&quot;</p><p>As a supplementary question, the paper asks: &quot;Would the remove of statute allow greater flexibility for fundraising or different modes of operation currently off limits?&quot; </p>