A brief update about the legal challenges around the country, from the Public Libraries News site:
“It’s been a day to remember for those who want to save libraries. Campaigners in Brent have today received legal permission to have a judicial review in the High Court in just a couple of weeks’ time. This, if the funding for the case is found by the campaigners, will be the first into court and will set the vital precedent. Also today, a court in Birmingham has agreed that there can be a judicial review on the Gloucestershire closures in September. As well as these two, and also today, campaigners in the Isle of Wight have been told they will receive funding to go to court and there apply for a judicial review.
Brent – Date set for High Court action against library closures – Willesden & Brent Times. “The case will be heard at the High Court over two-and-a-half-days starting on July 19. If the campaigners win, it will be a landmark case and could set a precedent on library closures across the country. The council decided to shut Preston, Barham Park, Tokyngton, Neasden, Cricklewood and Kensal Rise libraries earlier this year to save £1million.”. [Bindmans LLP press release (seen separately by Public Libraries news says “Either party, if they lose, can seek permission to appeal on a point of law, or because of the importance of the case. Applications for permission go to the judge who heard the case first and then, if they are refused, to the Court of Appeal.”]
Gloucestershire – Judicial review for Gloucestershire library service – BBC. Council cannot close libraries until review has taken place, probably by the end of September.
Isle of Wight – Legal aid funding granted to campaign to save Wight’s libraries – Friends of Isle of Wight Libraries (press release). Case will be funded on grounds that cuts breach the “comprehensive and efficient” requirement of the 1964 Act and also that an equalities impact assessment was not done (see quote below also). Leigh Day solicitors say “We have advised our client that she has a good case and expect the Court to grant permission for a full judicial review.”. Also in New attempt to half Island library closures – IWCP.
“We have also discovered that the IWC is trying to get Equality Impact Assessments done for the five areas who’s libraries are under threat. As part of this there will be forms available in the five libraries for the users to fill in- we need as many people as possible who actually use the libraries at Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin to go in, ask for the forms and fill them in- they are expecting a low response- please show them that Islanders really care about ALL of our 11 libraries and give them a huge response.” Isle of Wight – Friends press release.”
It is important for Doncaster Council to be aware of these legal challenges. Perhaps the Mayor will even change his mind about the cuts to the libraries budget – it would certainly be the sensible thing to do, given the costs that Gloucestershire, Brent and Isle of Wight Councils are likely to incur as a result of the legal challenges. At the very least, DMBC ought to put a halt to its plans to close libraries, make staff redundant and cut opening hours until a precedent has been set by these legal challenges.
The case in Gloucestershire is one to which DMBC should pay close attention:
“This legal action comes after more than 15,000 Gloucestershire residents failed to convince council leaders to reconsider the plans which they say will leave the most vulnerable residents without a vital public service. Lawyers will argue that the council’s planned cuts would mean it no longer met its statutory duty to provide “comprehensive and efficient” library services for all residents. The council will also have to prove that it did properly consult local people and that disadvantaged communities would not be disproportionately affected.” (The Independent)
If put in the same position, would DMBC be able to prove that the consultation of less than 1% of the Doncaster population that was called into Overview and Scrutiny was “proper”? Would they be able to justify deliberately not consulting people who work or go to school (but do not live) in villages where libraries are threatened? Would they be able to demonstrate that they had given due regard to the needs of Doncaster’s disadvantaged communities? Save Doncaster Libraries thinks not.