On 21st July Lincolnshire County Council and its plans for libraries will be back in the High Court, following a request for a second Judicial Review by Simon Draper. On 10th June in the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, the Honourable Mr Justice Hamblen decided that the application for permission to apply for a Judicial Review by Simon Draper versus Lincolnshire County Council should be adjourned to be listed in court as a “rolled up hearing”. The hearing will take place in the High Court on 21st and 22nd July. This hearing will consider whether Lincolnshire County Council’s view that the claim by Simon Draper has not been brought promptly is valid. If permission to apply for Judicial Review is granted at that hearing the Court will proceed immediately to carry out the Judicial Review. There are three grounds for Simon Draper’s challenge to the actions of Lincolnshire County Council regarding its plans to either close some 28 libraries across the county or hand them over to volunteers.
The first ground for a Judicial Review is that when Lincolnshire County Council carried out a second ‘consultation’ last October, following the High Court’s decision to quash the council’s original decision, it failed to consult about alternative proposals, including the Greenwich Leisure (GLL) plans, as it was legally required to do. The consultation made no reference to any alternatives to the County Council plans such as that submitted by GLL which would have kept all the libraries open with paid staff. The second ground for a Judicial Review is that the County Council in having accepted the expression of interest by GLL to run the whole library service in Lincolnshire on 12th November 2014, then decided to stop providing the service and did not go out to procurement for the whole library service which GLL had expressed its interest in providing. In other words Lincolnshire County Council having accepted GLL’s expression of interest should have then gone out to procure the whole library service rather than the reduced service it is currently asking for bids for.
The third ground for a Judicial Review is the failure of Lincolnshire County Council to consider alternative proposals under best value. Its approach to the proposal from GLL is perverse. No reasonable council would reject the chance to have a better level of service for the same budget. Commenting on the case Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers said: “It is very unfortunate that we are having to take legal action once again against Lincolnshire County Council. “They have failed to listen to everyone who has been calling on them to take a more reasoned approach to the library service following the High Court ruling last year. “It is a particular shame that they have failed to go with the Greenwich Leisure (GLL) proposals to maintain a staffed library service when GLL have a track record of running libraries successfully.” Simon and Timber Gray Draper said: “Since the Council keeps closing and downgrading our libraries, we need someone running them who will think of children first, help adults who need it, especially with computers, bring in Top 10 books and keep all libraries open. The council’s plan about using volunteers is unsustainable.”
Julie Harrison on behalf of Save Lincolnshire Libraries said: “The Council Executive have drawn a line in the sand regarding most of the libraries in the county and it is time for them to step over it and listen. It is still possible to run a comprehensive and efficient library service within the budget available without taking thirty libraries out of statutory control. This second Judicial Review reflects a justifiable concern regarding the County Council’s decisions and practices.” Details of two years of campaigning on the homepage here: https://savelincslibraries.org.uk/ Daily updates from the campaign in social media: Twitter: https://twitter.com/savelincslibs Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaveLincsLibraries