Changes to the library service across Hyndburn could be investigated by a government inquiry.
Secretary of State for culture, media and sport, Karen Bradley MP, has announced she is ‘minded’ to order an inquiry into the changes by Lancashire County Council (LCC) to determine whether they will offer a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service.
But before making a final decision Ms Bradley is asking the council to provide answers to 19 questions about the consultations and their decision making process. Library users and interested parties are also invited to comment.
County hall are in the process of closing and selling library buildings across Lancashire as part of a £262 million budget reduction plan.
Oswaldtwistle and Clayton-le-Moors’ libraries were mothballed by the authority but have been replaced with independent community-run library services which are due to launch next month.
Rishton library, which was also scheduled for closure, remains open while LCC considers an asset transfer application from the community.
Emma Clark, from the Save Rishton Library group, welcomed the possibility of an inquiry.
She said: “I would very much welcome the opportunity for LCC’s approach to close our libraries to be examined and scrutinised.
“I know Rishton’s community are desperate for the library to stay open within the heart of the village and would actively like to be involved in shaping any future decisions which are made for this vital community resource.
“The people of the village have fought extremely hard to keep the library for our children, residents and future generations. We feel decisions have been handled poorly with very little information shared openly with the public.”
Following the decision to close the libraries, objections were received arguing that LCC was failing to carry out duties imposed on it by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.
Jo Turton, chief executive of LCC, said: “It is disappointing that the Secretary of State is minded to consider an inquiry into the changes to our library services.
“The changes we are making will contribute towards the huge savings the council needs to make, while ensuring that people still have good access to library services through an extensive network across the county.
“A modern library service is about far more than providing books in buildings. We continue to reach out to communities through our mobile libraries, and meet the increasing demand for digital resources, whilst ensuring we continue to meet our statutory duties.
“We have also worked hard with community groups to start establishing a number of community-run libraries which will add to our already comprehensive network, with the majority of the population living within two miles of a library service.
“We are confident that once the Secretary of State takes a look at the additional information we will be supplying, she will decide that a public inquiry is definitely not needed.”