Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 18:12 UK

Wirral library inquiry head named

Library closure protest
MPs and hundreds of people have opposed the closure plans

An inquiry into Wirral Council's plans to close 11 libraries will be chaired by the former chief executive of a London authority.

Sue Charteris, former chief of Merton Council, was appointed by culture secretary Andy Burnham.

Wirral Borough Council announced last year it was axing a number of its libraries, despite public opposition.

The inquiry is investigating whether the authority's plans are consistent with its statutory duties.

Councils are required to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964).

'Potentially damaging'

Culture secretary Andy Burnham said Ms Charteris, now a public policy consultant, would report back in June.

"This inquiry has the potential to affect the thousands of people on the Wirral who have a right to a comprehensive and efficient library service," said Mr Burnham.

"We are in a time when local government, like individual people, are economically challenged.

"The modernisation of our library service is at the top of my department's agenda.

"But we also have a responsibility to ensure that local services are safeguarded from swingeing changes that could be potentially damaging to communities."

Should Wirral Council be found to be falling short of its duties under the 1964 act, the inquiry will recommend practical steps it needs to take in order to correct it.



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