Culture Media and Sport Committee: a quick account

Reproduced with thanks to the Library Campaign:

Until the official transcript of this morning’s Culture Media and Sport Select Committee session with the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, appears, here’s a version in note form put together by reviewing the live television stream. Note that we were incorrect to tweet during the session that Hunt had said that the Isle of Wight and Somerset court cases were due to report before the end of the month; he said that it was Gloucestershire and Somerset. Nevertheless, Brent campaigners will be surprised to hear this, as they believe their Court of Appeal case will come first.

Hunt was asked three questions by the committee, all by the chair.

Q: How does he understand the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act requirement for a comprehensive and efficient service?

A: Original definition of comprehensive and efficient in Roberts Report of 1959. Comprehensive = good selection of books, when books more expensive, efficient = reducing no of authorities. He takes responsibilities seriously, modernisation yes, vandalism no. Has had extensive discussions and engagement with Brent, Lewisham, Somerset, Gloucestershire and IoW about their programmes, not appropriate to comment in detail on individual cases as judicial reviews in progress,  Somerset and Glos this month, Brent from Court of Appeal next. 151 library authorities, 140 are modernising, dealing with cuts without large library closure programmes. What we are here to protect under 64 Act is services not buildings, not to stand in way of sensible modernisation, make sure local authorities doing everything they can through library plans to maintain good library services

Q Website says closure of one or even small number of branches not necessarily breach of Act. Suggests closure of larger number is. A number are making substantial cuts. Do you think some without naming names are in breach?
A: monitoring closely. Five authorities spoken to, IoW has found way forward for community to run five libraries its withdrawn funding from , Lewisham is finding community led alternatives, Somerset and Gloucs are trying these, Brent has taken different approach but extending weekend opening to seven days at the six it is keeping open. Not about number of buildings closed, but about availability of service, going through proper process and DCSM satisfying ourselves that councils are taking responsibility
Q: Physical books still important?
A: I personally have great emotional attachment to books, grew up reading books think they’re wonderful. As world changes, commitment must be to reading. People exploiting and enjoying literature, in broad sense. Will have less commitment to an individual way of reading, but libraries have important part to play in new digital world, not a reason for not having good library services.
Hunt’s performance was disappointing, but that was expected; and protestations by politicians about how much they love books are always to be treated with suspicion. What was worse was the lack of interest from the committee members. It demonstrates an anti-library consensus among the political class, whatever party label they may espouse. No wonder people are cynical about MPs.

One thought on “Culture Media and Sport Committee: a quick account

  1. Jo

    Hunt answer to question 2 makes no sense. He says Glos et al. are “trying community led alternatives” “trying” being the operative word! The thing is that these “alternatives” are not considered as part of the statutory provision and therefore do not contribute to the fulfilment of the Public Libraries Act. Gloucestershire County Council have made this clear…I wonder how Hunt does not know this. So, how can the casting adrift of ten libraries and the stopping ALL mobile libraries equate to them meeting their statutory duties? they do not. When is Hunt going to do his job and do something about it?

    Reply

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