Culture secretary to probe Northamptonshire library closures

Protestors against the closure of Middleton Cheney Library in the south of the county.
Protestors against the closure of Middleton Cheney Library in the south of the county.

The culture secretary is set to launch an investigation into the way Northamptonshire County Council chose to shut 28 libraries.

MP Matthew Hancock, the minister in charge fo the Department of Culture Media and Sport, will launch a probe into the controversial decision taken last month.

From August 28, small and medium-sized libraries are set to close in Northamptonshire unless community groups can be found to run them by the end of May.

Mr Hancock has now sent a letter to the acting leader of the county council, Councillor Matt Golby, stating his intentions to launch an investigation.

The news has been welcomed by Northampton North MP Michael Ellis, the Government minister for libraries.

"I am pleased that the Secretary of State for @DCMS @MattHancock has taken the first step of an investigation into #Northamptonshire #Library closures," he tweeted yesterday.

"#Northampton residents have a legal right to a “comprehensive and efficient library service”.

The probe was the result of concerns raised by the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

In the letter Mr Hancock, wrote: "Under the act I may intervene if I am of the opinion that a local authority is failing to carry out its duty under the act to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service for library users.

"CILIP claim that the closure of a significant number of static libraries and the mobile library service, together with the establishment of independent libraries outside of the statutory service, means that NCC is failing to deliver its statutory duty."

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “Our review of the library service in Northamptonshire was a necessary element of our budget-setting process for 2018/19 given the severe financial pressures the authority is facing, and is a service many other local authorities across the country have already reviewed.

“When we launched our library service review last October, we presented three options we believe each presented a comprehensive and efficient library service. These options carefully took account of value for money, geographical coverage, areas of need, usage and trends, accessibility, income generation, use of space and suitability of library premises for future development.

“As part of the decision-making process, we held a full and open 12-week consultation, during which we received feedback from more than 5,000 people, and we published Equality Impact Assessments for each individual library to consider the impact of the proposed changes.

“We are co-operating fully with the DCMS’s analysis of our decision-making process by providing all of the relevant information requested.”