Mr Jay asks whether Mr Hunt feels comfortable with the series of texts between himself and James Murdoch. Mr Hunt says his interpretation was that in his quasi-judicial role a “courteous reply to a text message was fine”.
So Murdoch’s acolytes get immediate replies to messages out of courtesy, while tens of thousands of library campaigners are ignored. Hmm.
His department ignored us for a year, then rushed a meeting in April 2012. Meanwhile they have been in close contact with Brent for 10 months.
Despite all our evidence, we are still being ignored. Read on (it’s worth it):
Although our legal challenge through the courts has come to an end, it is not over. We are now going to challenge the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on his department’s failure to investigate library closures for more than a year.
We will do this on two fronts. Today, our legal team has sent a letter demanding action. The DCMS met with Brent Council last year, but has so far ignored thousands of complaints made by us.
And tomorrow, the cross-party Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport is holding its enquiry into national library closures: Tuesday 7 February, 10.30am, Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 15 (it’ll be packed so get there early)
Over 130 submissions were made by all sorts of groups and people. It makes for very interesting reading.
You can find our 3 submissions at pgs 133, 366 and 544 as well as one from Barry Gardiner MP (pg. 583) and the inevitable defence from Brent Council (pg. 608). You can read them all here.
The benefit of libraries to communities is harder to measure, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes, in libraries large and small, from Barnsley to Bermondsey.
Does this government see it? Libraries minister Ed Vaizey‘s stock line has been: “I don’t run library services. Local authorities do.” He has a point: libraries are run by democratically elected local governments, and they take the lead. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. It may not be Vaizey’s job to micro-manage every library in the country – but it is his job to be their champion. And that is what he is failing to do.
Blaming the government for allowing them to close, he is silent on the fact that in Brent, it is his own party that has been fighting for the right to close libraries.
Campaigners leading the fight to save Brent’s closed libraries are not giving up hope and have vowed to carry on. The news library supporters had been dreading was announced today – that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, will not hear their case.
Margaret Bailey, who helped to take the fight to the High Court and the Appeal Court, said: “Obviously the decision is disappointing, and worrying that judges are able to make decisions that allow for the disregard of laws that are meant to protect people simply so that councils can make cuts. What next? Ignore the Equalities Act, the Human Rights Act because they may be too expensive to enforce?”
Samantha Warrington, Preston Library supporter, believes there should be a public inquiry. She said: “We have always been pursuing other routes. Now the legal avenue has closed we hope there will be a public inquiry and that Brent will consider alternatives in a way Camden has done it so positively.”
It gets worse, having privately apologised to Cllr. Lorber after he challenged the claim, anonymous spokespeople are now telling us that we do live near a library, even if it belongs to Harrow!
The Brent Council spokeswoman said it was “nonsense” that the council has been misleading anyone.
She said: “It is true that everyone living in the borough is no more than a mile and a half from a library, either in Brent or a neighbouring borough, and many residents choose to use a library in another borough. This was clearly explained in the proposals.’’
At 10 am, we went to the DCMS in central london to present 12,000 signatures and hundreds of letters to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. 400 were by kids alone. We demand he fulfil his responsibility to.investigate whether Brent’s new library service is “comprehensive and efficient” (as it should be under Museums.and Libraries Act 1964).
He met the council in June, but has he heard our side? Nope. The sheer volume of complaints to him should persuade him to do so.