Your correspondent Mr Bamber is absolutely right to point out that a statutory duty exists to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient (public) library service’, in the words of the 1964 Act.
The question is, however, on whom this statutory duty rests. The librarians’ own professional organisation, CILIP, is in no doubt. A statement recently released by this body, after it was announced that more than 100 library branches were shut last year says: “The government is behaving as if it doesn’t have a duty of care, and they do, under the law.” CILIP took legal advice from a distinguished human rights barrister, who confirms that it is the ‘legal duty’ of the UK culture secretary, John Whittingham, ‘to provide clear statutory guidance on the definition of a comprehensive and efficient service’. CILIP added that libraries were being put at risk through ‘… the fail-ure of HM Government to carry out their legal duty to the public’.
In Wales, of course, this duty is devolved to the Welsh culture minister, and his ministry does indeed toil to produce standards for Welsh libraries. However, the Welsh government can only distribute to Welsh councils the money allocated by Mr Osborne in the Treasury. Neither the Welsh culture minister nor the local authorities whose funding is being cut to ribbons by the UK government can make bricks without straw.
At the risk of boring your readers, may I repeat a paragraph from a letter of mine you were good enough to publish a couple of weeks ago? Yes, do let us fervently defend local services. But in protesting at the cuts, let us point to those truly responsible, and never let the real culprits devolve the blame.