When the Member asked about library provision in Lisburn in November 2000, I reported that the South Eastern Education and Library Board was exploring the possibility of providing a new library under the private finance initiative (PFI). I am pleased to be able to tell the Member that there has been progress. The South Eastern Education and Library Board set up a project board to continue that progress. It produced an outline business case that examined options for the provision of a library and associated costs, which the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure approved in February 2001. That approval enabled the project board to initiate the PFI procurement process by advertising in the Official Journal of the European Commission (OJEC) so that it could assess potential private sector interest in a PFI project. The project board has shortlisted companies to be invited to negotiate.
I welcome the news that companies have been shortlisted. When will work commence on site? When will a library that is fit for Ulster’s second city replace facilities that are fit only for a village?
The South Eastern Education and Library Board has prioritised Lisburn. The previous Administration directed the project along the PFI route, which is why it is continuing as such. Progress has been made.
I am aware of the need for a library for Lisburn and of the need for support. However, Lisburn library has a capital cost of £3·4 million, which is more than the Department’s entire capital budget. PFI is a possible means of covering the investment deficit. If it does not do so, the Department will examine appropriate alternatives.
My Department inherited a capital investment programme for libraries throughout Northern Ireland that was in serious deficit. Little money had been spent on libraries, including Lisburn’s, for several years. Lisburn library is now the top priority of the South Eastern Education and Library Board; Bangor library is its second highest priority and Newtownards library its third. However, all three priorities need to be addressed quickly. Moira and Dunmurry libraries are in poor condition also — they are inadequate and require capital investment. An economic appraisal of Dunmurry library will be conducted next year, and one is planned for Moira also.