Tag Archives: statutory service

Abolition of the Advisory Council on Libraries to go ahead

In 2010 the Government announced the intention to abolish the Advisory Council on Libraries (ACL). The ACL was established as part of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, its duty being “to advise the Secretary of State upon such matters connected with the provision or use of library facilities whether under this Act or otherwise as it thinks fit and upon any questions referred to it by him”. However, almost 4 years later (early 2014) DCMS held a public consultation on this proposal and the Government response to the consultation was published last week.

The summary response from the Government appears below:

the Government notes that almost all respondents, i.e. six out of the seven that answered the individual questions, do not think the advisory function of ACL should be transferred to another existing body and that a slight majority i.e. four out of the seven respondents consider the ACL should be retained and improved.  While noting these comments the Government preferred option remains to abolish the ACL. The Government considers that the function of advising the Secretary of State does not require a statutory body and in the absence of the ACL, DCMS works closely and meets on a regular basis with relevant stakeholders to discuss library sector issues

We are extremely disappointed by this decision to abolish ACL, especially in light of the responses highlighting the role an improved and re-invigorated ACL could have performed in relation to England’s public libraries. We believe that the development of the ACL role could have provided independent strategic leadership and guidance for the development, support and sustainability of public libraries in England, as well as a means to enforce statutory duties and ensure comprehensive and efficient service requirements were met.

The full government response can be found here: ACL_Govt_Response__final_version_.

Voices for the Library response to the consultation can be found here: VFTL response Abolition of Advisory Council on Libraries

 

Key Library Service Judicial Reviews Underway

It’s an important time for UK public libraries. Following on from severe proposed cuts by local councils’, a number of library campaigns have managed to force the decisions to Judicial Review. Brent library campaigners were the first to go through this process and are waiting for a decision to be made on their claim. Following on from this, Tuesday of this week saw the start of the second Judicial Review in the High Court for Gloucestershire and Somerset libraries. Gloucestershire and Somerset claims are being heard together in a joint procedure. So far, the QC representing Gloucestershire and Somerset claimants has presented the case against both Councils’ and tomorrow the defence QC will present the case for the Councils. Further details from the Gloucestershire perspective can be found here.
The challenges raised in the judicial reviews’ can be summarised as:
  • Brent: “Brent Council has closed its mind to alternatives to closure, did not assess community needs or the impact of closure properly, made significant mistakes about the facts, misunderstood its legal duty to provide a library service and acted unfairly.” (Further details here)
  • Gloucestershire and Somerset: “The Councils have breached their legal obligations to residents by: 1. Failing to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” as required by the Libraries and Museums Act; 2. Failing to adequately assess and have due regard to its statutory equalities duties; and 3. Failing to consult residents in a fair, effective and open manner and to take into consideration the results.” (Further details of Gloucestershire campaign here; and Somerset here)

Even though there are differences in the challenges raised, the common ground is that claimants and campaigners all want to ensure that legal duties to provide a library service aren’t ignored; and that they want their local council’s to listen to the opinions of local residents and communities… The people they represent… The users of the library services they are destroying.

Many other campaigners, besides those in Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset, are in much the same position – still fighting to get themselves heard by their local councils, who are forcing them down a similar route.
The outcome of these reviews may well have an impact on other campaigns throughout the country – at this stage they are giving hope to those who aren’t as far down the campaigning route; and we imagine they are making local council’s think twice about cutting services so drastically and removing paid staff. Once the decisions of the judicial reviews are announced they are likely to influence any future decisions around libraries throughout the rest of the U.K.
We’re unsure when the decisions will be made at this stage, but we hope that all the campaigners’ hard work and efforts pay off, and that the local communities who will be affected by the cuts, get the library services they deserve and are entitled to.

Public libraries are protected by law

This letter is reproduced with permission from Mr. Francis Bennion, a retired barrister and active writer and academic, who drafted the Bill which later became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, the law which makes public libraries a statutory service. It is in response to the article written by Caitlin Moran, which is reproduced with her permission here. The paragraph that was omitted from the published letter (in square brackets) may be of particular interest to campaigners who are currently working on, or considering, legal challenges to library cuts.

I read Caitlin Moran’s account of the debt she owes her threatened public library as the only alma mater she has ever had (The Times Magazine, 13 August 2011) with particular sympathy. Nearly half a century ago I was struggling to draft appropriately the Bill that became the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. I was instructed to draw a reasonable line between the requirements of the public and the limited resources of local authorities. The Act is still operative. Various attempts to enforce it by judicial review are pending.

The Act says a local authority which is a library authority must “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons . . . whose residence or place of work is within the library area of the authority or who are undergoing full-time education within that area”. Its stock of “books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials”, must be “sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children”.

[Under this provision a severe reduction now in the public library facilities which were being provided by a particular library authority two or three years ago is likely to be unlawful. This is because there is a presumption that the earlier provision did not exceed what was required under the Act.]

The Act also says that the Government must “superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England and Wales, and . . . secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities”.

It does not appear that the statutory duties I have mentioned are being adequately fulfilled at present. The Act does not contain any provision for reduction of the duties because of a need for “cuts”. [1]



[1] Published in The Times 16 August 2011. The important passage in square brackets was omitted.