Shirley Burnham's Blog : 21st May 2011


DCMS Complicit in Allowing the Law to be Broken ?

The final recourse for citizens who identify injustice and maladministration of their local library service is to seek intervention from the Minister and Secretary of State, individuals who are entrusted with duties and responsibilities under statute.  When no response from them is forthcoming, citizens are forced to go to Law for redress.   Wily government will know how much that will hit the pockets of the people concerned.  Do the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, and the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, continue to turn a blind eye to their own statutory duties, confident in the expectation that affected citizens may not have the financial resources needed to bring their local authorities to account ?  If so, are they complicit in allowing the Law to be broken ?

There seems to be evidence for such an allegation :

.   DCMS is aware of poor practices in specific local authorities, but is hesitant to act.  This failure
    means the bad practices continue undisturbed;

.   the Secretary of State and the Minister have stated that their approach is on a "case by case" basis,
    but there is no sign that any case is the subject of their attention or interest;

.   there is potential for a bucket of amendments to duties of local authorities that could render
    the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act impotent;  amendments that would invest the
    Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government with powers under the Localism Act that
    relieve DCMS of its legal responsibility for the public library service -- and citizens' right of appeal;

.  there are reports of DCMS stonewalling inquiries and not responding to letters written in good

Ministers and Secretaries of State are obliged to abide by the law and uphold the democratic process.  It seems reasonable and, indeed, urgent to request that David Cameron announce a judge-led inquiry into the matters raised here.