SLAM has received a letter from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), giving notification that the Department is monitoring Surrey County Council’s library “developments” and is “awaiting the Court’s determination of the legal challenge” before deciding whether to step in and take action.
The letter from the DCMS, which places further pressure on the Council, was sent in response to a request by SLAM asking for the Minister for Culture (and superintendent of the library service), Ed Vaizey, to make a formal intervention over SCC’s controversial library plans.
SLAM requested the intervention after raising concerns that SCC was not fulfilling its statutory duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act, and especially its duty to “provide a comprehensive and efficient” library service.
SLAM noted the last time the Minister intervened was in setting up an investigation into Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s plans for its libraries. The resulting report said that the Council had “failed to take account of local needs in designing their library service.”
SLAM further noted DCMS’s recent guidance in relation to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act, which stated that, “the following matter[s] may be relevant to any consideration of intervention by the Secretary of State:
- Any consultation process undertaken in the lead up to proposed library changes and the Authority’s response to that consultation.”
SLAM surmised, in its request to Ed Vaizey, that the Department expected Councils to assess local needs, and that a consultation of library users (and presumably local residents) was an appropriate means of assessing these needs when restructuring the library service.
SLAM pointed out that SCC had not properly assessed local needs and had not consulted with library users or local residents, and it had, therefore, contravened the Department’s own guidance of what would be required to meet the the requirements of the 1964 Act.
SLAM will continue to communicate with the DCMS during this “monitoring” period.
It is difficult to understand how SCC determined what residents need from their local library without asking them!
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