On Friday 14th March the High Court granted permission for the application for judicial review of Lincolnshire County Council to go ahead. The challenge is being brought against the council’s proposals to cut the library service by £2 million.
The judge had been considering the documents that had been submitted by Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of Simon Draper of Lincoln. The submissions made on behalf of Simon Draper, had been followed by a number of submissions from Lincolnshire County Council.
The judge clearly decided that there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to the High Court for a full judicial hearing and has issued an order giving permission for the case to be heard. A date for the case is still to be arranged.
The judge did not restrict the grounds of challenge, and therefore the 4 grounds will be considered by the High Court when the case is heard. The challenge argues:
- that the consultation was unlawful as the decision had already been taken
- that the Council failed to ensure that the harm that was going to be caused by their decision was prevented, as required by the Equality Act
- that the Council failed to properly consider the proposal by Greenwich Leisure Limited ( a not for profit agency who had bid to run the library service). As a result the Council had failed in its duties under the Localism Act (1)
- that if the cuts go ahead Lincolnshire’s Library Service will no longer be comprehensive and efficient and therefore will breach the national requirements.
Commenting on the judge’s decision, Simon Draper said:
“Timber (my wife) and I very much welcome the judge’s decision as she has clearly recognised the strength of our case. I appeal to the County Council to immediately put a stop to its savage cuts to the Library Service so that no more damage is caused before the High Court is able to hear our case.”
Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers said:
“Whilst we welcome this decision, we call on Lincolnshire County Council to look at their decision and to think again. Instead of passing on cuts they should be spending their time looking at ways of how to defend jobs and services in the County, not ways of how best to cut them.”
Save Lincolnshire Libraries welcomes the decision by the judge to order the case to go to a full judicial review and calls on the County Council to listen to Simon and the thousands of other people in Lincolnshire calling for a halt to their attack on libraries.
Phil Dilks spokesperson for Save Lincolnshire Libraries said,
“The attack on libraries by the County Council has gone on long enough. With the Judge having decided that the case should go to Judicial Review, which we welcome, the Council needs to come to its senses and listen to the people of Lincolnshire. 25,000 people have signed our petition. It’s about time the Council listened to them. They should stop sacking staff and cutting library hours and work to provide a proper library service for the future.”
[additional comment 20/3/2014]
Ian Anstice of Public Libraries News commented
“This will be a historic case as it will be the first to challenge on the “comprehensive and efficient” terminology of the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. All other challenges have been on other grounds, notably the Equalities Act.”
(1) The Localism Act was ironically a piece of legislation and policy which the Government has pioneered as part of its ‘Big Society’ project.
FURTHER INFORMATION on the start of the Judicial Review Process, detailing the four grounds at this link: High Court proceedings begun challenging the decision by Lincolnshire County Council to cut Library Services
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