Crucial legal requirements that require local authorities to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service have been put under review.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a review of the statutory duties placed on local government. The DCLG are “inviting you to comment on the duties and challenge government on those which you feel are burdensome or no longer needed.”
The DCLG have identified 1,294 statutory duties that central government places on local authorities, three of these duties apply to public library services in England. All three of these duties are held by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport under the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964).
“We are calling on everyone who cares about public libraries to explain to the Department of Communities and Local Government, loud and clear, why these statutory duties are so vital,” said Brian Hall, CILIP President, “These duties mean that local authorities have a legal obligation to provide comprehensive and efficient library services, and they allow the Secretary of state to monitor and inspect library services. Without them, it will be incredibly difficult to hold local authorities to account and local people will be much less likely to receive a quality public library service that is consistent across the country. I urge you to submit your views by the 25 April 2011.”
The Public Libraries and Museums Act requires local authorities to provide a public library service which is comprehensive and efficient, and available to all who wish to use it. The Act also gives the Secretary of State the right to gather information and inspect library services.
At an MPs debate on the 28th February, Libraries Minister Ed Vaizey stated that there are no plans to repeal the statutory provision of libraries under the Act, saying, “The statutory duty remains a very important safety net for the provision of libraries.” CILIP Chief Executive Annie Mauger has sent an open letter to Mr Vaizey; urging him to make it clear to the DCLG that there is a continuing need for these duties, and reminding him how much public concern there is about the future of public libraries.