Press statement from Public Interest Lawyers, 17 July 2014
On Thursday 17th July 2014 the High Court handed down a decision quashing the plans by Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to make £2 million pounds worth of cuts to the library service.
LCC had proposed to re-design their service and to move from 47 libraries, currently under the council’s control, to a service leaving only 15 libraries within the statutory framework. The 32 remaining libraries would either be run by volunteers or if insufficient volunteers could be found would close and be served by a mobile library service.
During the hearing a number of issues became clear. It was found that the LCC had failed to follow their own government’s legislation for enhancing community involvement in public services through the Localism Act.
The consultation run by the council was rejected completely on the basis that they had already decided to have 15 libraries before the consultation began. Indeed the campaign ‘Save Lincolnshire Libraries’ had collected a petition containing 23,000 signatures rejecting the proposals – yet despite this the Lincolnshire County Council refused to listen.
The case was brought by Mr Simon Draper who is a carer for his wife – she is a wheelchair user. He and many other witnesses outlined how the threats to close libraries would have disproportionally affected the elderly, disabled, lone parents and the socially disadvantaged.
The claim was brought by Public Interest Lawyers on the basis that Lincolnshire County Council had:
i) failed to consult on their proposals properly,
ii) that the cuts breached the council’s equalities duty and that
iii) the library service that would remain, after the cuts, would not be comprehensive and efficient.1
iv) Finally the Judge held that LCC had failed to properly consider a proposal from Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) a not for profit organisation. They had proposed to take over the whole of the library service with a promise to save 161 jobs (with no loss of pay, terms and conditions), keep all the libraries open, to develop an apprenticeship scheme, and to make the savings required by the council. This was not even considered by the council and rejected without full and proper consideration.
The Court also heard that that for the financial year 2013/14 LCC had underspent by £42 million.
After hearing 2 days of argument Mr Justice Collins ordered that the decision by Lincolnshire County Council be quashed. He considered that the decision by the council should be put out for further consultation and that the most sensible way ahead would be to obtain the necessary details from GLL with regard to their bid to run the libraries.
Paul Heron, solicitor with conduct of the case said: “When this legal challenge was launched we called on Lincolnshire County Council to think again, and seriously re-consider the cuts they had proposed. They ignored my client, dismissed his claims that the consultation was flawed, and ignored the fact that the cuts could be avoided. The Court has listened and ruled that Lincolnshire County Council’s proposals, which would have decimated the library service and cost hundreds of jobs, were wrong as a matter of law.”
Mr David Lawson of Hardwicke chambers was instructed in this case.
Download the full judgement here: http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk//Download/71574
1 The Defendant is required by Section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide “a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof”.
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