Minister visits Lancashire to investigate library closures
A top level meeting between a Government minister and the leader of Lancashire County Council may provide some help for the county library service.
County Coun Jenny Mein was cautiously hopeful that some extra funding may be available following a top level fact finding visit by Government minister Rob Wilson.
The minister for civil society had stepped into the controversy over the council’s closure of 28 of its 73 libraries, visiting county hall to see for himself what is happening with the library service.
The VIP visit followed a call by Ben Wallace, Wyre and Preston North MP and security minister, for the Government to intervene and “call in” the council closures and investigate whether it is meeting its legal obligations under the Public Libaries and Museums Act 1964. The Government had pledged to investigate the concerns as a formal complaint.
The first libraries closed at the end of September and six are now on or in the process of going on the market. Offers have been invited around £475,000 for the former Fulwood library on Garstang Road and Freckleton library has a £325,000 price tag.
After the 80 minute meeting Coun Mein said: “It was a very cordial meeting. He was here for quite some time. He offered a couple of things and we are looking into it. It’s not to reopen the libraries that are already closed.”
The head of Lancashire’s library service Julie Bell and the head of property services Mel Ormisher also met the minister.
Coun Mein continued: “It gave us the opportunity to let him know what a fantastic (library) offer we actually have. I think he was impressed with some of the things he heard.
“We have a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service and obviously he was probing to try to make sure we did do that, also that we’ve consulted properly according to the rules. He will be writing to us in two to three weeks.”
A Department of Culture spokeswoman said the visit was: “to discuss and question the authority’s existing and future plans for its library service” and meet local representatives who had concerns about a library’s closure.