At 10.30 on Tuesday July 8th, the High Court will start a Judicial Review to consider the case of Simon Draper v Lincolnshire County Council, the outcome of which could have major implications for the future of public libraries across the country.
Ten Members of the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign will be attending the hearing and plan to report on the key developments through social media with the hashtag #LibraryJudicialReview. The group’s Twitter account can be found at @SaveLincsLibraries and their Facebook group at SaveLincsLibraries. The campaign group has also set up a ‘Thunderclap’ so supporters can all send out the same message on Twitter and Facebook, on the morning of day two of the hearing. Click here to take part on the Thunderclap Page – it really is a piece of cake to do.
In December 2013 Lincolnshire County Council decided to withdraw staff from two thirds of its libraries and either hand them over to volunteers or close them. In addition, opening hours at the remaining libraries were to be reduced and mobile libraries to be withdrawn from over 100 villages. The Judicial Review will consider this decision and the result could set the course for all public libraries in Britain.
A current government review and public library providers across the country are waiting on the judgement in this Judicial Review.
Lincoln resident Simon Draper is challenging the council’s decision on four grounds as follows:
– Lincolnshire County council will no longer be providing a comprehensive and efficient library service as required by section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act,
– the consultation process was unlawful on the grounds that the outcome of consultation had been pre-determined and the basis of the information given for it was misleading,
– the Council failed to give proper consideration to the needs of vulnerable people including the elderly, children and disabled people as required under the Equalities Act,
– the Council did not give sufficient consideration to the bid from Greenwich Leisure to run the library service as required under the Localism Act.
‘This Judicial Review is important not only for Lincolnshire but for the public library service across the country,” said John Hough, spokesperson for Save Lincolnshire Libraries.
‘If any Council can take upon itself the power to decide what a statutory library service is, there will be no protection for public libraries in the future.
‘We believe that Lincolnshire County Council has tried to find a way round the Libraries and Museums Act so as to provide the minimum level of publicly professionally run libraries it can get away with.
‘It ignored the overwhelming public opposition to its proposals to demolish and destroy the important and highly valued service that it had provided. And with the recent news that the council had a huge under spend of more than £62 million* last year, the premise on which the original consultation was carried out “that it had to save £2 million immediately” has been shown to be false.’
Phil Dilks, Shadow Executive Member for Libraries commented:
‘It’s an absolute scandal that Lincolnshire County council has so much sitting in the bank which was collected in council tax last year and not spent on vital services at the same time as decimating our library service for the sake of saving under £2 million.
‘Instead of wasting more taxpayers money on lawyers to defend the indefensible, they should do the decent thing and for once listen to the people of Lincolnshire.’
Campaigner Julie Harrison, former head teacher, commented:
‘To force 30 libraries into volunteer hands, with many people saying they feel forced to volunteer. To sack over 100 staff. To remove over 100 of mobile stops. It’s a betrayal of Lincolnshire people on every level. It’s abusing people’s good will and their community spirit. And it’s putting an essential public service on very rocky ground, as the withdrawal of all 12 volunteers at Alford library only last week has proven. This plan cannot go ahead if a comprehensive, professional led, library service is to be maintained for Lincolnshire as a whole. The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act states “It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof”. The key phrase here for me is “all persons”, not those with cars or those who can walk to the big central library: all people.
‘The support we have received so far has been tremendous and it would be great to return next week with positive news for the huge number of people who are regular library users and those dependent on their libraries.’
The outcome of the hearing is expected to be known several weeks after the Judicial Review.
* The figure of £62,372,0000 is taken from the report to the Council’s Executive last Tuesday. This is the underspend for last year 2013-2014 and the direct quote is “this gives the Council an overall underspend of £62,372,000.”
Campaigners attending the high court who will be updating their Twitter
Campaign Twitter: https://twitter.com/savelincslibs