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Public Libraries: Closures

Volume 463: debated on Monday 1 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many libraries were closed in the last 12 months in (a) each Government region and (b) each parliamentary constituency; and whether he (i) has used or (ii) plans to use the provisions of section 10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. (155085)

[holding answer 10 September 2007]: DCMS officials wrote to library authorities in April 2007 requesting information about public library closures, openings and refurbishments. The returns established the following figures for the Government regions in 2006-07:

Government region

Closures

Openings

Net position

London

5

5

0

South East

9

3

-6

South West

7

0

-7

East Midlands

7

3

-4

West Midlands1

7

5

-2

East of England

1

0

-1

Yorkshire

8

5

-3

North East

10

3

-7

North West

17

7

-10

Total

71

31

-40

1 Please note that a return was not received from Herefordshire county council.

These figures indicate 40 net public library closures in England in 2006-07 which represents around 1.1 per cent. of the total of 3,573 libraries. In addition almost 200 significant refurbishments took place last year. Library reorganisations can result in better and wider access—for example to take account of where population shifts from one area to another, or where two small, part-time libraries are closed and strategically replaced with a larger new library open for longer hours.

Data on the number of closures per parliamentary constituency are not collected centrally.

The formal powers of intervention established under section 10 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 have only been used on one occasion, when Ministers initiated a review of the public library provision in Derbyshire in 1991. This review did not result in the then Secretary of State making use of his full powers of intervention.

There are currently no plans to use the powers established in the 1964 Act to intervene in the management of any English library authority: such decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis as issues arise.