Campaigners desperate to save their local libraries from closure have been left none the wiser about the circumstances in which culture minister Ed Vaizey would intervene, after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport declined to clarify a remark made by the minister.
Vaizey told delegates at yesterday's (21st June) London event The Future of Library Services in the Big Society that he would not shy away from intervening over local library closures "where there is a prima facie case that they [the local authority] have breached their library duties." But he added: "I haven't been given that advice yet."
Library campaigners in Gloucestershire, who have launched a judicial review claim against local closures and last week obtained a High Court injunction halting them, reacted angrily to Vaizey's comment. "Please once and for all tell me how your advisers are briefing you on Gloucestershire County Council - HOW are they NOT in breach of the public libraries act?", they asked on the Bookseller's site, claiming that the situation in Gloucestershire was "far worse" than that in the Wirral, where a public inquiry was ordered in 2009.
A DCMS spokesperson told The Bookseller it was not possible to set out what a "prima facie" case of the kind described by Vaizey would look like. He said: "Every case is different, all local authorities are different and have different circumstances, whether they are city or rural. The DCMS continues to monitor the situation on a case-by-case basis."
The spokesperson added no reasons would be made public as to why the government had declined to act in Gloucestershire or in Lewisham, where five libraries closed last month despite meetings held by the DCMS with residents and the council many weeks ago. "The duty on the department is to continually superintend the service so there is no point in which a case is closed and we explain the reason why we have not intervened," he said.
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