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Minister stops libraries closing

3 April 09 18:04 GMT

The closure of 11 Wirral libraries has been put on hold by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, less than 24 hours before the first was due to shut.

Wirral Borough Council announced it was axing the libraries in an overhaul of leisure facilities, despite huge public protests and MP opposition.

Four sites were to close on Saturday, but a local inquiry will now be held.

It will examine if the council is fulfilling its obligation to provide a comprehensive library service.

Higher Bebington, New Ferry, Ridgeway and Wallasey Village libraries were to be the first to close.

Mr Burnham intervened on Friday after the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) expressed its concern over the closures.

If the council's plans are deemed to fall short of its duties then the inquiry would take practical steps to put things right.

Andy Burnham said: "I have ordered this inquiry to seek further information to help me draw my own conclusion as to whether the plans in the Wirral are consistent with its statutory duties.

"This is at the heart of the review.

"I also appreciate that the Wirral has historically had an above average number of libraries serving a changing population demographic.

"But the balance has to be right and modernisation should never compromise core provision of access."

The decision of the review will be announced in June.

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