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Libraries

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

16. What recent representations he has received on maintaining libraries as a statutory service required from local government; and if he will make a statement. (310902)

We have received a number of representations on public libraries as part of our modernisation review consultation exercise, including some comments on libraries as a statutory service. We will consider these responses in detail when the consultation closes on 26 January and publish a policy statement incorporating responses to the consultation in the spring.

Does the Minister agree that there is always a risk that libraries will end up as something of a Cinderella service? Does she also agree that for those who have listened to this afternoon’s exchanges in questions, the idea that the Government will be able to maintain exactly the same spending on her Department after the general election, whoever wins, and that that will simply continue in a steady state, is wholly unrealistic? Is it not time for a collective grown-up debate about how we are going to make savings and reduce the public deficit while causing the minimum danger and damage to public services—

Order. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I think that we have the thrust of his question.

Funding for libraries is actually a matter for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which funds libraries through the local government settlement and local government grants. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that libraries can become a Cinderella service in many local authority areas, and it was because of that danger that I instituted this review. I want to ensure that we get a library service that is fit for purpose in the 21st century and that can be afforded by local authorities on a firm footing.