Local authorities have a duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. On 3 April 2009, the Secretary of State announced his intention to use his powers under the Act to hold an inquiry to test whether the Wirral MBC's plans for its library service, arising from its strategic asset review, are consistent with its statutory duties. If the council is found to have fallen short of these duties, the inquiry will recommend the actions necessary to rectify that breach. The inquiry has now been launched and will report in due course.
In considering the findings of both the Wirral inquiry and the DCMS Library Service Modernisation (which will determine the Government's vision for a modern, world-class public library service and set out some of the necessary steps to support all local authorities in providing continuously improving, excellent library services) the Secretary of State will consider what further guidance is needed by local authorities on the interpretation of “comprehensive and efficient”.