The Government are providing support for library authorities throughout England to deliver library services that are accessible and modern, and that meet local needs. That includes a £4 million libraries innovation fund, new wi-fi provision and support for library authorities to explore alternative operating models such as mutuals. I strongly believe that staff should have a stake in the public services they provide.
Lichfield library is situated in a lovely old building, but it would cost more than £1 million to maintain it, so Staffordshire County Council decided to move the library into a heritage centre, which will strengthen that centre, and the old library building is now being privatised and restored. It is a win-win situation. What sort of advice on best practice does the Department give to other county councils? Perhaps Staffordshire County Council could be a model, in this instance at least.
I welcome the approach that has been taken by Lichfield library and congratulate Staffordshire County Council on its work. Local authorities need to think imaginatively about how libraries can deliver their priorities, and the ambition document that we recently published through the Libraries Taskforce challenges them to do so. Standing still is really not an option. I encourage local authorities to embrace change and to be bold in finding solutions, as Staffordshire has done.
May I thank the Minister for being so personally engaged in supporting our efforts to protect Swindon’s vital community libraries? Will he join me in praising Councillor Dale Heenan for setting up the community library trust that has saved Covingham library and that should be expanded further?
May I thank my hon. Friend for all the efforts he is making in Swindon? I recently visited the local authority, and I was really encouraged by the desire to keep local libraries open. I join him in congratulating his local colleague and local councillor on the work he has done in setting up a local trust and keeping libraries open.