Victory for people power - but Tories demand Wirral library closure inquiry report be published now (From Wirral Globe)
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Victory for people power - but Tories demand Wirral library closure inquiry report be published now
A REPORT into the closure programme which is thought to be highly critical of the ruling Lib-Lab administration may never now be published, fear Tory councillors.
The planned shutdown of 11 of Wirral's 24 libraries was dramatically aborted last Wednesday evening in what the previously pro-closure council leader Steve Foulkes insisted was an act of "decisive leadership".
Cllr Foulkes, leader of the Labour group, said the U-turn was being made as the Government-ordered local inquiry into the closures had taken so long, and any planned cost savings the closures would have brought could not now be seen for this year.
The decision also saw the council abandoning its plan to use the savings from the library closures to spend £20m on 13 neighbourhood multi-purpose centres across Wirral.
Campaigners and opposition Tories, however, say they believe Cllr Foulkes and his deputy, Lib Dem leader Simon Holbrook, have acted to deliberately pre-empt the results of the local inquiry, the results of which they have been allowed access to, along with some senior council officers, for over a month for "fact checking" purposes.
Consultant Sue Charteris chaired the inquiry over two days at the Floral Pavilion and although her report has not been published, several sources have indicated that it makes "painful" reading for the administration.
As a result of the shock announcement last week, the inquiry has been extended a further 21 days to allow interested parties make further submissions.
Tory leader Jeff Green said: "This is an absolutely stunning U-turn by two men who resolutely backed the ludicrous idea to close 11 much-valued libraries right up until the eleventh hour.
"We know they've been allowed a sight of the draft report - and refused to allow us to see it - so I can only draw the inference that its contents are so shocking that they felt they simply had to climb out of the hole they'd dug for themselves.
"Unless the report is published unedited and immediately then the stench of mystery will never go away. Over 60,000 signed petitions against closing our libraries and they deserve to know the truth.
"In the meantime, this thoroughly discredited administration should resign immediately."
A special meeting of the full council has been called for Monday, October 12, where the U-turn will be discussed. It was demanded by the Conservative group but council leader Foulkes is unhappy.
He said: "We have to ask – why do the Conservatives want to 'discuss' this issue yet again? If I were a cynical person I could believe that they are trying to continue to make political capital out of the issue."