Dan Jarvis MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister, has warned that for two years, Government Ministers have been ignoring local campaigners’ appeals for the Government to step in and save libraries.
He said it was unacceptable that one community group had to wait two full years and still the DCMS has not made a decision whether to intervene.
Campaigners in Lewisham wrote to Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP on August 3, 2010, asking for him to exercise his power to order an inquiry into cuts to library services there. Twenty-four months later, the Minister has still not made the initial decision on whether he is minded to act.
Campaigners in Gloucestershire have also waited since 2010 for a response. Campaigners from the Isle of Wight have been waiting more than a year for a decision, while a local group in Bolton that requested action in December 2011 has just had notice that a decision may be made in September of this year - but could take even longer.
Dan Jarvis said:
"The Government does not seem to take seriously their responsibilities for a service which thousands of hard working communities across the country rely on, and which is a particular lifeline in these tough times for the most vulnerable in society - for job seekers, families with young children, for kids without a place to work at home, for anyone who can't afford to go online.
"Libraries are first and foremost the responsibility of local government, and their leadership must be respected. Now more than ever I have sympathy with councils that are facing incredible pressure thanks to the disproportionate and front-loaded cuts imposed under this Government's increasingly discredited economic policy.
"But the Government has a duty to oversee the library service. That duty is laid out in law, and it is appropriate given the national as well as local importance of libraries to our society. I do not ask or expect that a full-scale statutory inquiry be launched in every case where libraries are being closed. But at the very least, people have a right to expect is that the system works in a way that is transparent, timely and meaningful.
"The confusion, ineffectiveness and lack of transparency we've seen serves neither councils nor communities."