THE deterioration in quality of public library buildings was described as a scandal by a Parliamentary committee today.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee called on Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell to act on the issue.

The call comes as Huddersfield Library is under scrutiny in a big-scale redevelopment scheme that could see a multi-million pound replacement built - or the existing, listed building renovated.

Ten years ago a survey by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) identified a backlog of £650m worth of building repairs in England alone. The MLA said the potential cost had risen significantly.

The committee's report, Public Libraries, said: "A significant deterioration in the public library estate is a scandal that must be rectified.

"Whether the buildings in question are exemplars of architectural splendour or of more humble design, the library building stock needs to be safeguarded.

"Maintenance and refurbishment should have been planned, and provisions made by its custodians before now.

"In 2003, the Secretary of State stated that `If we have learned anything from the past, it is that public buildings work well when they are uplifting to the spirit as well as fit for their purpose'.

"The Secretary of State must back up her vision with action and resources."

MLA chairman Mark Wood said: "Some public libraries have had little more than a lick of paint in the last 30 years.

The state of many library buildings is a key in deterring potential users."