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Hemlington library (Middlesbrough)

Volume 559: debated on Monday 25 February 2013

The Petition of residents of Middlesbrough,

Declares that the Petitioners acknowledge the unfair and savage cuts imposed on Middlesbrough and particularly the impact to Hemlington library; further that the Petitioners note that local authors Richard Millward and Peter Brunton support this Petition and also note the great work done by local Councillors Nicky Walker and Jeanette Walker who made this Petition possible, alongside local volunteers including school children from Hemlington Hall Primary, St. Gerard’s Primary and Viewley Hill School.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Communities and Local Government to explore every possible avenue, including the obtaining of funds from the development at Hemlington Grange, to keep Hemlington Library open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tom Blenkinsop, Official Report, 18 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 820.]

[P001151]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport:

The Government are committed to championing the public library service. Libraries can and do contribute to a range of local and national government priorities including assisting people to access a range of educational materials, to find employment and work with parents, schools and colleges to support education and learning agendas. All these connections can have positive benefits for communities.

The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires all library authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service based on local need within available resources. The assessment, funding and provision of library services, including issues such as opening hours, are therefore for local authorities to determine. Decisions about Hemlington library are a matter for Middlesbrough Council, and the Department notes that the Library could remain open through a move to a volunteer-supported service in 2013-14.

The Secretary of State, has a duty under the Act to superintend the delivery of library services by local authorities. A number of local authorities have announced plans to reconfigure their library services, and we monitor progress on plans, including those of Middlesbrough Council. Where the Government consider that a local authority is no longer providing a comprehensive and efficient service, it has the power to order an inquiry.

The Government continue to support libraries and has transferred the responsibilities for the development and improvement of public libraries to Arts Council England (ACE). ACE is currently undertaking a major research project to help develop a long-term vision for public libraries in England. Additionally, they have worked with the Local Government Association to publish new research into communities’ involvement in library service delivery and management. The report, “Community libraries—Learning from experience: guiding principles for local authorities” was published on Tuesday 22 January and the guiding principles will assist local authorities who are considering reviewing the delivery of their library services to work with their communities.