Minister ‘not minded’ to order inquiry into Sheffield library takeover

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An inquiry into the community takeover of Sheffield libraries is not likely to be held - as a minister said the plans did not ‘justify intervention’.

Culture secretary Ed Vaizey has said he is not minded to undertake a probe into the way Sheffield Council relinquished control of 15 branches to save £1.6m a year.

Broomhill Library Action Group complained to the minister that the council was not meeting its legal duties.

Most of the libraries have now been taken over by voluntary groups.

In his letter to Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore, Mr Vaizey said that consultations on library changes were ‘thorough and well considered’ rather than flawed as had been claimed.

His view was that the council’s proposals would continue to offer a ‘comprehensive and efficient library service’.

The letter added: “SCC have given careful thought to ensuring that library services continue to be available to residents on an efficient and accessible basis and that hub libraries are easily accessible by public transport and conveniently located among other services and shops.”

But Mr Vaizey is seeking further views before he makes a final decision and said he would continue to monitor the council’s compliance with its duties.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, the council’s cabinet member for communities and public health, said the minister had intervened ‘late in the day’ in a move that could have closed branches.

“We’ve worked really hard with the people of Sheffield to find a solution that works for the city in the face of searing funding cuts.

“The response from the volunteer groups has been fantastic and its thanks to them that all our libraries remain open.

“I’m very pleased the minister has recognised that our decision making was robust and involved proper consultation.”

Further representations to the minister must be in by 5pm on Thursday November 20.