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Dan Jarvis MP, Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister, said:
“Ed Vaizey’s reaction to the pressure libraries are under could be summed up as ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ He has consistently refused to acknowledge the threat libraries are facing.
“He talks about only a few dozen branches being closed. In fact 157 libraries have been reported shut down or handed over to unpaid volunteers since April 2011, and another 225 are currently under threat. And this is just the start, with many more cuts likely in the next few years as the Government’s cuts which go too far too fast to local authority budgets continue. How can the Government act to minimise the damage to libraries if they refuse to accept it is happening?”
Dan Jarvis said on the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals’ fear 20 per cent of libraries in England could be closed:
“I hope this will turn out to be too pessimistic, but the current figure for libraries either closed, transferred or under threat since April 2011 already amounts to more than half that figure.
“I’m all for being positive about the future of libraries, but at the very least this is a serious cause for concern. People in dozens communities affected by these cuts are asking if the minister is living on the same planet.
“The only way he can spin this line is by discounting the fact that dozens of branches are only being kept open by hard-pressed and dedicated volunteers, by ignoring closures of mobile libraries, and by turning a blind eye to the iceberg looming ahead.”
Dan Jarvis challenged Ed Vaizey, saying:
“The minister seems to be driven more by justifying the inaction of his department than by a concern to minimise the damage to libraries.
“I ask the minister – is his department keeping tabs on how many libraries have been closed? Where are they getting their figures? Have they established how many are currently threatened with closure by councils? And does he agree that libraries are not in fact doing just fine, but in many communities face extremely serious challenges?”
“The Government cannot stop all libraries from closing, nor should that be their aim. But they could be leading a concerted effort to minimise the damage and encourage measures to cuts costs without affecting front-line services. Instead we are seeing half measures and a vacuum of leadership or ambition. Our libraries deserve better.”