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Ulverston Library

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

The petition of residents of the constituency of Barrow and Furness,

Declares that the Ulverston library offers a vital service to a local people from lending books to supporting literacy, to enabling community groups, and bringing local people together; further that Ulverston library must be re-opened as a matter of urgency.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to help ensure that Ulverston has a full library service restored as soon as possible.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Simon Fell, Official Report, 13 December 2023; Vol. 742, c. 962.]


Observations from The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez):

The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 requires all local authorities in England to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. Public libraries are, therefore, funded and run by local authorities. In considering how best to deliver this statutory duty, each local authority is responsible for determining local needs and how best to deliver a modern and efficient library service that meets the requirements of their communities within available resources.

The Government recognise the importance and value of public libraries for all members of the public. Libraries support the transformation of people, communities and society as a whole. They provide access to books, opportunities for people to learn and improve, and bring communities together to support integration and tackle loneliness. In addition, they provide practical help and guidance, including for literacy, digital skills, health and wellbeing, and business development.

We understand that Ulverston library has been closed since September 2023 following a routine statutory check which identified issues with the building’s electrics meaning it was unsafe for public use. We are aware that Westmorland and Furness Council established temporary library provision with a “pop-up” library in the Coro that offered a selection of books for borrowing and public access to laptops and printers. This has been supplemented with further temporary provision provided in early December at Ulverston indoor market providing more stock for borrowing, as well as spaces which can be used for community groups, meetings and events.

We further understand that the temporary provision has been strengthened following the management of the Coro reverting from Ulverston Coronation Hall to the council on 1 January 2024. This has enabled the council to extend the library opening hours at the venue, in line with previous library provision, including opening at weekends. The council is working on extending the temporary library provision further, using more space within the Coro and it hopes to launch this in early March.

We understand that the council is committed to finding a long-term future for a library in Ulverston and recognises that it is one of their most important library services. The council has confirmed that it is undertaking an options appraisal with a view to agreeing a permanent site for the library in Ulverston and for that to be in place and fully operating later this year. The options include the full repair and refurbishment of the existing library building, as well as options to relocate to alternative premises or co-locate within other council facilities in the town. The council has confirmed that on completion of the assessment of the options it will consult local residents to ensure they have the opportunity to comment and their views will be taken into account as part of the process.

We support the approach to restore a permanent location for the library service in Ulverston and note the council’s intention to consult on the preferred option. However, it is not for the Government to direct the council about how it should run or manage its statutory library service. It is for Westmorland and Furness Council to determine based on the needs of local residents and consideration of the resources it has available.

My officials have discussed with council officers the current position with Ulverston library and we will continue to monitor Westmorland and Furness Council’s library service provision, including arrangements for Ulverston residents. We thank the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell) and the signatories of this petition for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.