The soft option that should spark a bonfire……

Another impassioned piece about the proposed closure of libraries, this time by The Times columnist Caitlin Moran. I personally think that libraries are fantastic places. The whole family uses ours nearly every week. The ordering service in particular is fantastic, enabling us to catch up with favourite authors and required reading, as well as discover new books recommended in various publications. And if we choose to do so we can rent a wide range of CDs and DVDs.

Of course I do feel a little guilty about the benefit we get from our library. “Libraries gave us power” sang the Manic Street Preachers, extolling the role they played in widening access to education for all. Once libraries really were working class enablers. Now they have seemingly become yet another middle class welfare perk.

And yet I still think I do have a right to be angry about library closures. Not because I believe that there are probably other areas that could be cut (I am sure there are, although I will try and avoid fatuous point scoring about councillors’ allowances and expenses and executive salaries and perks). No, the real villains are the countless statutory obligations which are handed down to local authorities from Whitehall and Brussels, and that have to be followed without deviation or hesitation, adding billions of pounds of burden onto local authority budgets. Sadly our local authorities do little to fight or highlight this.

Library closures in short are a cop out. They are soft option, high profile decisions. They allow local authorities to blame “the cuts” and therefore by definition the government. The real evil in all this is regulation and red tape. It does not just affect our businesses. It affects our local services and the taxes we have to pay. If jobs and wealth creation aren’t enough of a reason to get this often promised bonfire of regulations started, then the thought of library closures should be the final spark that gets it going.

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