Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Leader rejects library quit calls

Library closure protest
The plans drew local opposition

The leader of Wirral Council has rejected calls for his resignation in the wake of a critical report into plans to close 11 libraries.

Independent inquiry inspector Sue Charteris said the authority had failed to assess local needs in drawing up the controversial restructure.

Labour leader Steve Foulkes has faced criticism from opposition councillors for his handling of the affair.

But he told BBC Radio Merseyside: "I have no intention of resigning."

The plan to close 11 of the borough's 24 libraries was drawn up in a bid to make budget savings.

Statutory breach

The sites were to have be replaced with a number of neighbourhood centres which would have also provided some library services.

But the plans were met with anger from people living in the areas affected, local MPs and opposition councillors.

In April, former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham put the closures on hold and ordered a public inquiry under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

In her report, Ms Charteris found that the council would have been failing in its statutory duty to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" library service if it had gone ahead.

I get called to resign every five minutes - it goes with the territory of leadership
Steve Foulkes, Wirral Council leader

But while accepting that those who wanted to keep their local libraries had secured a victory, Mr Foulkes insisted the rationale behind the programme was correct.

Asked what he made of calls to step down, Mr Foulkes said: "I get called to resign every five minutes - it goes with the territory of leadership and difficult decision making.

"There is a big silent majority of people who want council tax to be kept under control and wanted some of these new facilities - some communities would have benefitted greatly from this.

"It was a decision we took. It was a decision that we decided not to advance, but obviously the effect will be increased council tax whatever happens."

Mr Foulkes said local government was in for a "tough time" in the next three years with spending cuts predicted.

"We could have made these savings without compulsory redundancies, with staff being well looked after and new facilities coming on line.

"We enter now a very uncertain period for local government."

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