Lord Tope debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport during the 2019 Parliament

Public Libraries

Lord Tope Excerpts
Monday 3rd February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The noble Lord is absolutely right that these are invaluable institutions, which often represent a real anchor within communities and are often used by the young, those not in employment and those from black and minority communities. However, I disagree with the blanket picture of gloom that he paints. About 25% of libraries have seen their visits grow since 2010—in fact, since 2006. There is a real divergence in how libraries are responding to the needs of their communities, and we need to learn from those which are most successful.

Lord Tope Portrait Lord Tope (LD)
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My Lords, I must declare an interest as co-chair of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group. I have the noble Lord’s report as well. The Minister has referred to the cultural investment fund. While it is very welcome, I think only 10% of that fund has actually been allocated to libraries, and it is all capital. The problem libraries have, which is leading to the closures that have already been referred to, is the lack of revenue funding. Arts Council England has recently published its 10-year strategy, which highlights the transformative work of local libraries in their communities. How will the Government ensure that enough revenue funding is available for libraries to sustain this work and ensure that it reaches all parts of the community?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The noble Lord is ahead of me if he is confident that 10% of the fund will be allocated to libraries; my understanding is that the split between museums and libraries has not yet been determined. On revenue funding, both elements are important and we are seeing that the successful libraries are the ones that are being most innovative in responding to the needs of their communities, including in digital literacy and other services that they offer. The funding settlement for local authorities this year will help contribute to sustaining that.