William Eichler 05 February 2016

Councils could be ‘breaking the law’ by closing libraries, warn Unite.

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide 'comprehensive and efficient' library services, and may be contravening this by shutting down libraries, the union warned yesterday.

Over 400 libraries have been closed down in the last five years because, Unite argue, they are seen as 'a soft target' by local authorities trying to find savings in the face of Government cuts.

The latest figures published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) show that in March 2011 there were 4,340 libraries in England, Scotland and Wales.

In March 2015 that figure had dipped to 3,917 - a loss of 423 libraries.

Fiona Farmer, Unite national officer for local government, said: ‘The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act outlines the statutory duty incumbent on councils to provide a quality library service and the legal obligation of the culture secretary John Whittingdale to improve public libraries in England.’

Ms. Farmer continued: ‘We are asking government to keep our libraries open, reverse the council cuts, and have a fair funding formula for local authorities.

‘It needs to be highlighted that local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide comprehensive library services as a quality service for communities.

‘Libraries are a beacon of hope and practical assistance for people wishing to improve their literacy - we have one of the lowest levels in the developed countries; for those seeking employment; and as centres for strengthening community ties.’

An umbrella group called Speak Up For Libraries is staging a lobby of parliament on Tuesday 9 February and they will be joined by Unite members from Greenwich and Bromley library services who are taking industrial action at the proposed cuts to their respective libraries

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