Library closures – challenging the DCMS

We have been asked by Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign to publish the following, regarding intervention requests made to the DCMS by library campaigners and the lack of response to these requests.  Geoffrey asks campaigners to contact him if they feel joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Please read his full request below for further details.

 

Many groups protesting against the closure of libraries in their respective areas will have lodged requests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for intervention under its statutory duties and powers by, in particular, directing the holding of an inquiry into the library authorities’ proposals, in many cases executed in the time which has elapsed since the requests were lodged.

By way of example, Save Bolton Libraries Campaign and Bolton and District Civic Trust lodged their requests, which relate to the closure of five of Bolton Council’s libraries, by 1st February 2012.   In spite of reminders and a letter from the MP for Bolton NE, the DCMS has taken no action in relation to the requests other than seeking further information from the Council, which the latter supplied in February.  The Council’s proposals have been implemented.

It is thought that other groups have been faced with similar inaction on the part of the DCMS.  Indeed, its website reveals that in only one case (Brent) has the DCMS even gone so far as to issue a letter indicating a provisional view (in that case that it is minded not to intervene) but inviting further representations.  It is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that the DCMS has adopted a policy of inaction in the hope that library user groups will get fed up and go away.

Whether attributable to deliberate policy or incompetence, the delay by the DCMS in dealing with the requests, even allowing for the engagement of Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State, in matters such as the Olympics and the Leveson Inquiry, has reached the point where action to compel it to express its views in ‘minded to’  form is required.  There is a strong case for suggesting that joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman alleging maladministration in relation to the failure to deal with the requests in a timely manner.  Such complaints, which require endorsement by local MPs and ought to be preceded by advance notification giving a relatively short period to deal with the requests, ought to be lodged with attendant publicity and before the Olympics.

Representatives of groups whose requests for intervention are currently imprisoned in the limbo of the DCMS are asked to contact Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (geoffrey.dron@gmail.com) if they consider the approach suggested might have merit.  It is hoped to start a discussion on how to move matters forward.   Consideration might be given to a meeting of representatives at a mutually convenient venue, but the first step is probably to find out what the overall appetite is for complaints of maladministration.

Update

In reference to the above request we have received the attached letter as follow up to Jeremy Hunt from Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, which we have been asked to publish here.

Save Bolton Libraries Letter June 2012

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