https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/2016/07/26/a-week-is-a-long-time-in-politics/

A week is a long time in politics

Since the consultation period on Libraries Deliver: Ambition for public libraries in England 2016-2021 closed on 3 June, the Taskforce has been working to incorporate the extensive feedback received into a final document.

However, just as we were approaching the final stretch of achieving sign-off and getting ready for publication, you might have noticed there have been a few changes in Whitehall! Not only have we now got a new Prime Minister, but many ministers - including in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) who are one of our sponsors (along with the Local Government Association) - have changed.

DCMS ministerial team. From left to right: Rob Wilson MP, Baroness Joanna Shields, Karen Bradley MP, Lord Ashton of Hyde, Matt Hancock MP, and Tracey Crouch MP. Photo credit: DCMS
DCMS ministerial team. From left to right: Rob Wilson MP, Baroness Joanna Shields, Karen Bradley MP, Lord Ashton of Hyde, Matt Hancock MP, and Tracey Crouch MP. Photo credit: DCMS

These changes have included new/merged departments being formed - the Department for Exiting the European Union, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade - and some responsibilities shifting between existing departments.

Changes in DCMS

DCMS have not been unaffected. It has welcomed the Office of Civil Society from the Cabinet Office into its midst. The minister who heads that Unit, Rob Wilson MP, has responsibility for a wide portfolio which has the overarching goal of growing a stronger civil society, and includes many agendas of interest to public libraries:

  • supporting youth policy, leading on the creation of opportunities outside school for young people to develop skills and have a stake in society
  • leading across government on the development of mutuals
  • creating the conditions for a more independent and resilient voluntary, community and social enterprise sector
  • promoting social investment and social impact bonds, helping to develop a capital market that supports social impact
  • growing volunteering, social action, community action and philanthropy

New Libraries Minister

Rob Wilson MP - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. Photo credit: DCMS
Rob Wilson MP - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. Photo credit: DCMS

In light of these links, it was great to hear that Rob Wilson will become the new Libraries Minister as well as maintaining his role as Minister for Civil Society.

I met with him late last week and he is excited to be taking up the libraries portfolio. He is keen to ensure that libraries are recognised for the value they add in achieving outcomes for individuals and communities:

  • stronger, more resilient communities
  • enhanced reading and literacy
  • increased digital literacy and access
  • helping everyone achieve their full potential
  • healthier and happier lives
  • increased prosperity
  • cultural and creative enrichment

He is also keen to look at ways to make libraries sustainable for the longer-term and wants to make sure that opportunities arising from his work with civil society, particularly on mutuals and new funding streams such as social impact bonds, are investigated thoroughly to see how they might support further development of the public library sector.

What does this mean for Libraries Deliver?

He was very appreciative of the work that had gone into production of the Ambition document - particularly thanking those who had provided such valuable input during the consultation process. As you might expect with his new arrival in post, he wants to take a bit of time to review the document, visit some libraries and talk to colleagues. He's hoping to do this quickly so the document can be published as soon as possible.

So I’m asking everyone who is eagerly awaiting sight of the document that they helped to shape to be patient with us - we’ll get it to you as soon as we can! In the meantime, our existing Toolkits (Libraries Shaping the Future and Community Libraries) are there to provide advice and guidance, based on good practice, to support councils in running library services. We will also look to push ahead with some of the ongoing priority actions on the Taskforce’s roadmap such as creation of a core basic data set and co-ordinated publicity planning. So look out for more details on these and other actions on this blog...

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