THE inspector who slammed Wirral’s now-abandoned library closure plan said any attempt to compare its plans with other areas was “nonsensical”.
Sue Charteris was appointed by the then-culture secretary, Andy Burnham, last year to hold a public inquiry into the controversial plan to shut 11 libraries.
Wirral Council’s Strategic Asset Review (SAR) was intended to lead to fewer but better facilities and further investment in frontline services, but met determined resistance.
The plan was later abandoned on the eve of the publication of Ms Charteris’ report.
But arguments have raged on about the refusal of the Labour and Liberal Democrat-led council to release details of its correspondence with Ms Charteris after it was sent a copy of her draft report.
The council refused a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Eastham councillor Phil Gilchrist to see its response to Ms Charteris.
But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport sent Cllr Gilchrist the letter after he submitted a similar FoI to the department.
Now Ms Charteris has released to the Wirral News her response to that letter – marked “strictly private and confidential” – in which she said council legal officer Bill Norman was “profoundly misreading” her draft report when criticising it.
She also criticised the council’s use of comparisons with other authorities to justify the library closures.
She said: “Most importantly, I was indeed struck by the uniqueness of Wirral as a place, surrounded by water on three sides, distinctive and established communities, the location of your estates and the gap between the affluent and deprived.
“Comparing you with, say, Darlington in terms of the pattern of library distribution from the perspective of statutory compliance would be nonsensical.”