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Libraries being kept open because council told it has to

Government tells council it would be acting illegally if it had pressed ahead with plans to close eight libraries

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

Contact:

01635 886632

Fury over plans to close Hungerford Library

WEST Berkshire Council is only keeping libraries open because it has been told by the government that it would be acting illegally by pressing ahead with its original proposals to close them.

The council was proposing to close eight of the district's nine libraries - leaving just Newbury open.

But yesterday it announced it was using £475,000 of 'transitional funding' to give six of them a temporary stay of execution.

Today, council papers seem to reveal why - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have told the council it would be breaching its statutory duty if it was to do so.

Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act, the council has a statutory duty to provide a "comprehensive and efficient library service".

There had been questions from campaigners and members of the public as to whether keeping just one library open could be considered as a comprehensive and efficient service.

It appears they were right with council papers published at 2pm yesterday afternoon revealing that the council  would be "failing" in its duty if it closed eight libraries.

In its Equality Assessment Impact (EAI) report, published by the council's culture and environmental protection officer Mike Brook, it says that the DCMS had told the council it would have to complete a detailed Needs Assessment before approving its proposals.

The report adds: "The proposal (to close eight libraries) should be reconsidered so that libraries are retained pending the outcome of an independent Needs Assessment.

It adds: "The council will fail in its equality duty, and also statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act if it proceeds with a major reduction in its Libraries service without due process.

"I recommend the proposal be reconsidered so that libraries are retained pending the outcome and recommendations of an independent Needs Assessment."

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Article comments

  • HeartNewbz

    20/03/2016 - 09:09

    Quite the misleading headline! If you read the quote, the officer is just saying that the council must assess need before proceeding with the recommendation. So, they did a public consultation and decided to put funding into the libraries.

    Reply

  • NewburyKnight

    18/03/2016 - 20:08

    So reading between the lines... The government isn't actually saying the proposal is illegal, but that WBC would need to review public need before proceeding.. hence why they did a public consultation? Actually seems reasonable to me - at least the money is going to protect services rather than in to reserves!

    Reply

  • Solonge

    18/03/2016 - 00:12

    Absolutely delighted....this ragbag council who are very able to lose taxpayers money, spend it unwisely and negotiate contracts with developers with as much nouse as the average 5 year old, have been put firmly in their place. Having heard one of the councillors using mealy words about how to translate 'its statutory duty in providing libraries' has discovered its not all about playing with words. I couldnt be happier.

    Reply

  • Sausages

    17/03/2016 - 18:06

    So much for the legal advice that some Tories have boasted about. It makes you wonder whether this is purely incompetence or a deliberate attempt to mislead.

    Reply

    • Solonge

      18/03/2016 - 00:12

      I would guess a liberal sprinkling of both!

      Reply

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