MPs warn austerity cuts mean some councils in danger of failing legal obligation to provide library services


UNISON is calling on the Coalition government to ease budget cuts imposed on councils in England, which it says are causing many local authorities to close down or drastically cut local libraries.

It comes after a report from MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has warned cuts to local authority budgets have led to decisions on the future of libraries across the country being made in an ‘undemocratic and unsatisfactory’ way.

The committee also warns some councils are in danger of failing their legal obligations to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.

UNISON says it also means communities are losing the vital services that a vibrant local library can provide.

Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: “In the current economic environment – where hard pressed families are struggling to make ends meet – the services that a library provides are more important than ever before.

“This report, quite rightly, identifies the value of libraries beyond just book-borrowing, pointing out their role within communities in terms of literacy and providing a broader range of often unrecognised services.

“But our local library service is facing a grim future of cuts and closures with local people paying the price for bad decisions made by councils. Some councils are even leaving themselves open to costly legal challenges, which would be a scandalous waste of public money.

“UNISON is deeply concerned that Arts Council England, also facing cuts, will not be able to effectively advocate on behalf of libraries.

“The government has to step in before it is too late.”

The report states that local authorities need more support in order to make the right decisions about library provision.

Committee Chair, John Whittingdale, said: “At the moment councils appear to be somewhat in the dark about what is expected of them and are making decisions which are being overturned by judicial review.

“This is an expensive, undemocratic and generally unsatisfactory way of making policy.

“Councils need to be given the support and advice they need to consult locally and develop a service that meets the needs of the local community and complies with their obligations.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar