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Public Libraries

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. My Department monitors proposed changes to library service provisions by local authorities, and if DCMS receives a complaint that a council may be failing to meet its statutory duty, we challenge those councils and carefully consider the evidence before deciding if a local inquiry is needed.

The Manic Street Preachers said “Libraries gave us power”, but since 2010, 230,000 library opening hours have been lost and 127 libraries in England have completely shut their doors. I have three under threat in my constituency. I listened to the Minister’s answer. What advice or assistance can he give Ealing Council, which is struggling to keep its statutory services going with a 64% cut from the Government, to keep these engines of social mobility alive?

I would ask Ealing Council, as with other councils, to look at local authorities that are investing in libraries. Local authorities around the country of every political hue are opening, expanding and developing libraries. The first reaction to those facing budgetary challenges ought not to be to cut cultural items, but to provide support for them, and other local authorities have proven that they can do it.