Call for Government to step in over ‘flawed’ library consultation

PUBLISHED: 07:52 27 February 2019 | UPDATED: 07:52 27 February 2019

Cross-party unity against the cuts to the library services by Essex County Council

Cross-party unity against the cuts to the library services by Essex County Council

Copyright © 2019 Celia Bartlett Photography. All rights reserved.

Essex County Council’s library consultation is “flawed” and “unlawful”, according to a group of Uttlesford councillors.

Letters have been sent to the Government by councillors calling for an inquiry into the consultation, which ends today (Thursday).

Thaxted resident Dr Mike Tayler and Thaxted councillor Martin Foley delivered letters and petitions from a further 1,000 library supporters on Monday to County Hall in Chelmsford and are now calling for an inquiry to halt the “flawed consultation process”.

Cllr Foley said: “Letters are now being prepared to be sent to Michael Ellis MP, minister for libraries, officially asking for an inquiry by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport with a view to halting this flawed consultation process.”

Last month, Councillor Barbara Light, Uttlesford district councillor for Saffron Walden, said the proposed library closures were “unlawful” and also wrote to the secretary of state requesting that the proposals to close libraries in Essex be called in.

Cllr Light argues that by closing the libraries, Essex County Council would “fail in its statutory legal obligation” under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desirous to make use thereof”.

A spokesman for Essex County Council said the council had consulted with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport during the development of the consultation.

The spokesman said: “Our proposed strategy enables Essex County Council to meet its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, while at the same time modernising and improving library services so they can offer improved digital access and physical spaces which cater for a diverse range of people and activities.

“We consulted with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport during the development of the draft strategy for consultation. Their guidance states: ‘In considering how best to deliver the statutory duty, each library authority is responsible for determining, through consultation, the local needs and to deliver a modern and efficient library service that meets the requirements of their communities within available resources’.

“That is why we are now consulting on a draft strategy that is based on an assessment of need for a library service. There is falling demand for the libraries, and our proposals are designed to shape the service to be comprehensive and efficient and meet current and future needs.

“No decisions will be made until the consultation has ended and all responses have been analysed.”

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