Under 50-year-old laws, local councils currently have a legal obligation to provide comprehensive library services.

Public libraries across the country could be closed to save money, under plans being considered by ministers.  More than 450 libraries are facing closure because of public spending cuts. The Government believes that the spread of the internet and other social changes may mean that councils should be free to close libraries.


Under 50-year-old laws, local councils currently have a legal obligation to provide comprehensive library services.

Ministers are currently reviewing this law and if it is scrapped, hundreds of libraries could be forced to close.

Local authorities are braced for years of budget cuts as Whitehall cuts funding to reduce Government borrowing. Libraries account for more expenditure than other cultural or sporting projects funded by local councils.

Last night, the Conservatives said that the plan was “outrageous and offensive”.

Ed Vaizey, the shadow culture minister, said: “Libraries are an absolutely essential local service. And yet ministers have suggested in yet another Review to remove the statutory requirement for a local authority to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service.

“This puts the future of every public library in the country under threat. I think this is outrageous and offensive to everyone who every cared about books and reading.”

Over the past decade, almost 200 libraries have already been closed. There are now 2,870 libraries in England.

The public libraries in many English cities were originally established in the Seventeenth century. They spread quickly in Victorian times after local councils were given the right to levy taxes to fund library services.

More than half the population are still estimated to visit a public library at least once a year and there are more than 288 million visits each year. Local authorities spend £1 billion a year on library services.

Although, the review may allow local councils to close libraries, ministers insist they still back local libraries.

The Government has said they are an “essential part of the future of communities” and that they should be used for other local activities or services.

Ministers will make a final decision on whether the legal requirement for councils to run libraries is to be scrapped in the spring. Local councils are expected to come under pressure to outline their plans for libraries before local council elections in May.

Ministers denied that they are planning to allow councils to close libraries. Margaret Hodge, the Culture Minister, said: “It’s pathetic that the only contribution Ed Vaizey can make to an important review is to mislead people. We have consulted on how to improve the regulations. We have absolutely no plans to change the requirements for local authorities to provide libraries.”

Top writers join National Library Action Day

Best-selling authors Mark Haddon and Phillip Pullman will be among a host of writers, musicians, poets and illustrators joining National Library Action Day tomorrow to fight for the future of Britain’s libraries.

More than 450 libraries are facing closure because of public spending cuts and Haddon, author of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night, said: “Libraries are being destroyed to save a banker’s bonus”.

Events and protests are being co-ordinated online and through facebook. A “carnival of resistance” will feature more than 40 library “read-ins” scheduled in a co-ordinated protest over the threatened closures.

Among those joining the protests will be Pullman, Haddon, Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, singer Billy Bragg, broadcaster Anna Ford, actress Susan Penhaligon, actor Ralph Ineson, author and illustrator Hannah Shaw, musicians Sly and Reggie, children’s writer Julia Golding, and authors Mary Hoffman, Malcolm Rose, along with Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis.

Julia Donaldson Library cuts ‘would make Britain more illiterate’

Leading children’s author Julia Donaldson – whose books include The Gruffalo – spoke out in support of Saturday’s Day Of Action to campaign against the closure of public libraries throughout Britain.

Donaldson, 62, who protested outside the Scottish parliament on Saturday, has warned that library closures would lead to a more “illiterate population”.

The Gruffalo has sold millions of books worldwide and was made into an animated film with the voice of Robbie Coltrane. She said: “If you close all these branches, get rid of these expert librarians, we’re going to end up with a population of more illiterate people . . . it is very short-sighted to close libraries, especially because that is where a lot of children gain and develop a love of books and reading and can extend their repertoire.

“Sometimes governments and local authorities seem to forget that children are the adults of the future. I used to love going to my local library as a child, and quite possibly if it hadn’t been for my excellent librarian who introduced me to a wide range of books I wouldn’t be an author today.


Via Telegraph