Before I answer the question, I shall take the opportunity to congratulate Lisburn and Newry on being awarded city status in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee year.
When I updated the House in March, I said that the South Eastern Education and Library Board was exploring the provision of a new library for Lisburn under the private finance initiative (PFI) and that the project board had initiated the PFI procurement process. That process is continuing and is at the evaluation stage. I am pleased to say that the project is within the indicative time frame.
Although I am pleased to hear that progress is being made on the Lisburn library, we have been waiting for some 25 years for a library in the area that suits the city of Lisburn. Can the Minister give us more concrete information about when a decision will be made to offer the contract to the company involved? When will work start on the new library?
The process was initiated by another Administration. It has been a long process, and there have been difficulties about the Linen Hall site. However, the Department funded the purchase of the site, and a project board has been set up. The Department approved the outline business case in February 2001, and a PFI procurement process was initiated. That process is currently at stage 10 of the 14 stages of the process. I did not design the PFI process. It was appropriate that we continued with it as it had been started before we took office. The process appears to be nearing conclusion, and, all things being equal, the project will start in the spring of 2003. In anticipation of that, the Department has agreed to provide additional funding for the library’s running costs.
At long last it seems that building work on a new library in Lisburn will start next year. However, the city of Lisburn covers a wide area, and there is also the issue of the public libraries in Moira and Dunmurry. At what stage are the plans for those two libraries?
There are several libraries in the Lagan Valley constituency, and Billy Bell has highlighted two that are in poor condition in Moira and Dunmurry. The South Eastern Education and Library Board, which is responsible for the provision of libraries, with the support of the Department, is progressing economic appraisals on both those libraries, which will take place in 2003 and 2004 for Dunmurry and Moira respectively. Those are the next two steps that the board is taking with regard to the provision of capital. We recognise that the libraries in Moira and Dunmurry are in poor condition and that they require capital investment.