AN OPEN letter to culture minister Ed Vaizey hitting out at his role in the controversial changes to Gloucestershire’s library service has been signed by more than 450 people.

Last month Gloucestershire County Council’s (GCC) planned cuts to the library services, which involved closing various libraries across the region, were ruled unlawful by the High Court.

The judge ruled that GCC had not taken the needs of vulnerable people into account when developing the plans and ordered the council to review the cuts.

The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FOGL) have penned the open letter to Mr Vaizey, claiming that concerns raised as GCC developed the plans were not acted on by the government, leading to an expensive court case, which cost the taxpayer £100,000.

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries member Demelza Jones said Mr Vaizey’s failure to act was “fiddling while Rome burns.”

“We posted the letter on our blog in the hope that other library user groups would join us, and have been overwhelmed by the response,” she added.

“It’s brilliant to see so many famous names, but just as encouraging to see the mass of support for public libraries from library users, parents and educators nationwide.”

The open letter on the FOGL website has been signed by 456 people and attracted 360 comments from figures such as former children’s laureate Michael Morpugo.

"To close libraries is to promote illiteracy and ignorance, to deprive our children of knowledge and understanding and to stifle intellectual curiosity and emotional growth," he said.

Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood has also signed the letter and added his voice to the criticism of GCC’s plans.

"The process in Gloucestershire was deeply flawed and should never have threatened libraries in less well-off areas like Hesters Way in Cheltenham, where they are often needed most," he said.

The letter has received scores of comments from Gloucestershire residents and supporters adding their voices to the debate.

"Detracters of the public library service seem to assume that it’s all about issuing cheap thrillers and romances on a Saturday morning, overlooking the wealth of study support offered, particularly for minority interests. Public libraries provide a comprehensive and efficient service, despite decades of low investment for some. There is nothing you could do ‘on the cheap’ that could replace them," read one comment.

"We should be investing in public libraries rather than closing them down. How can we expect to increase literacy levels when children are deprived of books and reading materials. In time of financial crisis, the decision of closing libraries is a big mistake," read another.

The letter is now closed to new signatures, but can be viewed on the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries website at