GOVERNMENT ministers are considering an inquiry into Lancashire County Council’s controversial decision to close a number of libraries.
The revelation culture secretary Karen Bradley is ‘minded’ to order a probe into its legality on Tuesday, less than four weeks before elections, has sparked a bitter political row.
County Hall’s Labour boss Cllr Jennifer Mein accused the Conservatives of ‘a transparent political stunt’.
She said: “I am confident the process was not flawed.
“I do not believe this proposed inquiry will ever take place.”
In November 2015 she announced that 40 of the county council’s 74 libraries would close to save cash.
She blamed government grant cuts to the authority which provides services to 12 boroughs including Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle and Rossendale.
Since then 26 have shut but 14, including Whalley and Oswaldtwistle, are subject to talks with outside groups to keep them open in some form.
Others including Bacup, Whitworth and Brierfield have been reprieved.
Closed libraries also include Briercliffe, Rosegrove, Pike Hill, Burnley Campus, Clayton-le-Moors, Chatburn, Read , Barrowford and Earby.
Now libraries minister Rob Wilson, who visited Whalley Library and met Cllr Mein in January, has written to her saying Mrs Bradley is ‘currently minded to order an inquiry to help determine whether the changes will offer a comprehensive and efficient library service’.
He sets out 19 points the Government wants more information on.
County Cllr Geoff Driver, Conservative Group leader, said: “Our proposals would have helped to save Lancashire’s libraries which are vital to our communities, yet Labour have shown themselves to be completely out of touch with the values of local people.”
Cllr Mein said: “The government already has all the information requested.
“Mr Wilson met me in January and yet the letter during the county council election campaign.
“It is a transparent political stunt and any Tory plan to save them by extra borrowing will not stop them closing in the longer term.”
Oswaldtwistle county councillor and chairman of the authority's Tory group Peter Britcliffe said: “This proposed inquiry is justified not a political stunt’."