I emailed Flick Rea about my concerns with the LGA claiming libraries are non-statutory. The director of communications from the LGA responded on her behalf. The main bit of text that I think is wrong is that the LGA put out was:
" In order to achieve that cut it would have to reduce spending on a broad combination of non-statutory services which might include children's centres, museums, libraries and sports centres, as well as reduce road maintenance budgets, increase bus fares and switch off streetlights between midnight and dawn"
Any fair reading of the above to a person who wasn’t aware of the facts would lead that person to believe that libraries are non-statutory. The response from David Holdstock from the LGA is below and in full:
Thank you for your email following on from the LGA’s press release issued on 9 May titled ‘Government cuts risk “failing communities”.
Councillor Rea has asked me to reply on behalf of the LGA.
I would like to clarify that the LGA fully understands that the 1964 Act confers a statutory duty on councils to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, and it is regrettable that the language used in our press release was open to misinterpretation on this point. The sentiment we were trying to get across is that individual libraries in-and-of-themselves can be closed without the associated council breaching it statutory duty, as found by recent judicial reviews into the issue of library closures. Councils do not take such difficult decisions lightly and the purpose of our media campaign is to ensure valued local services are maintained.
Local government, which is seeing its funding from central government cut by £10 billion in real terms across the current spending period (2011/12 to 2014/15), is facing a rapidly growing financial black hole, brought about by a combination of cuts and the escalating cost of delivering adult social care services. We have undertaken some detailed work which shows that by 2019/20, unless there is major reform of local government finance, the deficit will be £16.5 billion. It is because of this dire financial situation we are warning that, if nothing changes, despite their best efforts many councils may have little alternative than to close some libraries to make savings.
This is why the LGA is lobbying for public sector reforms, such as Community Budgets and greater devolution of funding, which will give councils the levers they need to protect the services that matter the most to local people.
I hope that you will support our aims of ensuring councils are able to continue to deliver important services for local people.
I have given my views and asked for a correction but since the BBC, national press and others have already in their ignorance of the museums and libraries act have ran the story and referred to library services as non-statutory a correction will make little difference. I do hope however that the LGA are more careful in their phrasing and stop referring to library services as non-statutory in future.