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Thursday 7 July 2011


Culture, Media and Sport

Pleck Library (Walsall)

The Petition of users of Pleck Library, Walsall,

Declares that the Petitioners wish to prevent the closure of Pleck library.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to protect Pleck library for the future.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Valerie Vaz , Official Report, 27 April 2011; Vol. 527, c. 313 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport:

The Government are committed to championing the public library service. Libraries can and do contribute to a range of local and national government priorities—for example, they can help people access a whole range of educational materials, find employment or get online support for issues such as health and well-being, and work with parents, schools and colleges to support education and learning agendas. All these connections can have positive benefits for communities.

Decisions about Pleck library, both before and after consultation with local communities, are a matter for Walsall Council in the first instance who have a duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.

The Secretary of State, has a duty under the Act to superintend the delivery of library services by local authorities. Developments concerning library services across England are being carefully monitored by officials.

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I recently wrote to every local authority in England to remind them of their responsibility under the Act to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. In that letter I repeated the key findings from the report of the inquiry that was held in 2009 into proposed closures of libraries by Wirral metropolitan borough council: that when re-organising library services it is important that authorities have a strategy, that they have considered the needs of their local communities and that they have consulted local people.

The closure of a library, such as Pleck library, does not of itself signal an automatic breach of the 1964 Act. Sometimes a library authority will close or consider closing a library to ensure a more efficient service across its geographical area overall and this will be based on a local assessment of library needs. To help local councils adapt to the current economic challenge, I launched The Future Libraries Programme in the summer of 2010. This is a joint Museums Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) and Local Government Association Group (LGA) programme which aims to support over 30 participating authorities to explore options that will help them to deliver the front line services communities want and need more efficiently. As it develops, learning from the 10 pilot projects will be shared widely to support non-participating authorities to deliver their services more efficiently too. Further information about the programme is available on the MLA website at:

http://www.mla.gov.uk/what/programmes/the_future_libraries_programme. The MLA is available to support any authority in developing plans for their library service.

We are aware that many local authority library proposals remain subject to consultation with local communities and that the MLA is in contact with many authorities. Consideration by the Secretary of State of whether or not any statutory powers should be used to assess an authority’s compliance with the 1964 Act will be made on a case-by-case basis and after careful consideration of all relevant facts and local circumstances.