Monday, 2 April 2012

Speak Up for Libraries Early Day Motion: In which I get a response from my MP

Prior to the Libraries Lobby in March I wrote to my MP Mark Prisk, asking him to sign the Speak Up for Libraries Early Day Motion. Today (nearly a month later!) I received his reply. Disappointingly he will not be signing the EDM, but that much I had already gathered by now! Below is the email I sent, and his reply. I can't see anything on the Early Day Motions page that says Ministers cannot sign EDMs, but I'm going to look into this some more!

Edit: Thanks Becky who found this page where it says that Ministers and government whips "normally will not sign EDMs".

Saturday 10 March 2012

Dear Mark Prisk,

I am writing to ask you to sign Early Day Motion 2817 - Speak Up For Public Libraries.

Free, professionally staffed public libraries are vital for education, lifelong learning, digital literacy and community engagement - all areas that our country could be doing better in. Cuts to public library services have been disproportionately severe, as they are seen as easy targets.

I am very concerned that chipping away at our public library services, gradually replacing trained, qualified staff with volunteers and closing down easily accessible branch libraries will cause a decline in library use, as the service becomes less valuable and less accessible to more and more people.

For more information on this issue, including stories from many members of the public about what a difference libraries have made to their lives, see independent campaign group Voices for the Library, Speak up for Libraries, and information on the value of libraries from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals

Thank you for reading, and please do sign the Early Day Motion.

Yours sincerely, Annie Johnson

Monday 2 April 2012

Dear Ms Johnson,

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about potential library closures.

I must emphasise, any decisions made to close libraries are made by local authorities rather than by Government. While I do understand that some local authorities want to modernise services and make them more efficient, it is this Government's belief that widespread library closures are by no means necessary or welcome. Indeed, many local authorities have managed to avoid closing a single library despite reductions in their budgets.

Furthermore, while Labour is predictably trying to present any library closure as a 'coalition cut', the tight spending that local authorities are facing is a direct result of the last Government losing control of the nation's finances. Due to this mismanagement, the UK now spends more on debt interest in a day than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has spent on the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in the last three years combined.

To help reverse the decline in the number of libraries, the Government is helping local authorities to run existing services on lower costs, most notably through the 'Future Libraries Programme'. This is designed to help local authorities share best practice about how to modernise library services.

Through the experience of the 36 Local Authorities involved in the programme, the Government was able to share real lessons about how to deliver more for less. This has been achieved by the sharing of back office services; co-locating library services with retail premises or other council offices; and delivering library services in Sure Starts and on public transport networks.

You will be pleased to know that success from these policies has led to more than 40 libraries opening or being refurbished across the country.

I am unable to sign the EDM as I am a Minister and in doing so would mean I was effectively lobbying myself however, I would like to thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely, Mark Prisk MP

(Dictated by Mark Prisk and sent on his behalf)
Mr Charles Rowley
Parliamentary Assistant to Mark Prisk MP (Hertford and Stortford)

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