Wirral Council displayed 'lack of logic' on libraries closure issue A GOVERNMENT report into the now abandoned plans by Wirral Council to shut 11 libraries has said the authority would have been in breach of it statutory duties.
The report by Sue Charteris also says the council displayed a "lack of logic" and that the plans would "disadvantage relatively isolated and deprived communities".
Wirral Council leader Steve Foulkes issued an immediate response saying he was disappointed with the contents of the report.
The inquiry, held earlier in the summer, was ordered by the former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham hours before the first libraries were due to close.
It was chaired by a former council chief executive Sue Charteris, who held two days of public hearings at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion theatre and conference centre.
The report had been due two months ago, but publication was delayed when Wirral Council dramatically announced a u-turn on the proposed closures. It later became known that the council had received a draft copy of the report for fact-checking.
In one of the most damning lines in the report Ms Charteris says the closures would be "better described as an indication of intent rather than a fully worked up plan".
Cllr Foulkes said: "In many ways the report published with the statement is no longer relevant because we have withdrawn the original decision on the Libraries.
"But I am very disappointed at its contents. I am disappointed not because it is critical of the decision, but because it is fundamentally flawed in its logic, and in many places it is just plain wrong.
"If Wirral were to be in breach of its statutory duty when the plans were implemented, then so would any number of other local authorities who would have had the same level of provision as us.
"The report illustrates totally the difference between theory and reality and I had really hoped and expected that the inspector would not fall into that trap.
"In theory, we could keep all our libraries open, improve our services and repair our buildings for no additional cost, just by introducing some minor changes like self service systems.
"In reality, the decision not to close some libraries and invest in Neighbourhood Centres will cost £2.3m next year, which is the equivalent of a 2% increase in Council Tax. Over the next three years we will also need to find another £2.4 million from revenue budgets for major repairs which will mean either increased council tax levels or cuts in services elsewhere."
Leah Fraser, prospective Conservative MP for Wallasey, said: "This report has exposed, for all to see, that the needs of library users had not been assessed and that the decision, had it been enacted, would have been illegal under the Libraries Act.
"I cannot help but wonder if the people responsible for this mess have, even to this day, any kind of idea how much concern and anguish they have caused to thousands of people across Wirral, not least among those vulnerable groups identified by Sue Charteris in her report.
"The fact that the needs of so many adults and children had not been considered, either before or during this process, nor it seems, since, is a masive dereliction of duty by those people who have been given the power to make the decisions." THE WIRRAL NEWS