It’s an important time for UK public libraries. Following on from severe proposed cuts by local councils’, a number of library campaigns have managed to force the decisions to Judicial Review. Brent library campaigners were the first to go through this process and are waiting for a decision to be made on their claim. Following on from this, Tuesday of this week saw the start of the second Judicial Review in the High Court for Gloucestershire and Somerset libraries. Gloucestershire and Somerset claims are being heard together in a joint procedure. So far, the QC representing Gloucestershire and Somerset claimants has presented the case against both Councils’ and tomorrow the defence QC will present the case for the Councils. Further details from the Gloucestershire perspective can be found here
The challenges raised in the judicial reviews’ can be summarised as:
- Brent: “Brent Council has closed its mind to alternatives to closure, did not assess community needs or the impact of closure properly, made significant mistakes about the facts, misunderstood its legal duty to provide a library service and acted unfairly.” (Further details here)
- Gloucestershire and Somerset: “The Councils have breached their legal obligations to residents by: 1. Failing to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service” as required by the Libraries and Museums Act; 2. Failing to adequately assess and have due regard to its statutory equalities duties; and 3. Failing to consult residents in a fair, effective and open manner and to take into consideration the results.” (Further details of Gloucestershire campaign here; and Somerset here)
Even though there are differences in the challenges raised, the common ground is that claimants and campaigners all want to ensure that legal duties to provide a library service aren’t ignored; and that they want their local council’s to listen to the opinions of local residents and communities… The people they represent… The users of the library services they are destroying.
Many other campaigners, besides those in Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset, are in much the same position – still fighting to get themselves heard by their local councils, who are forcing them down a similar route.
The outcome of these reviews may well have an impact on other campaigns throughout the country – at this stage they are giving hope to those who aren’t as far down the campaigning route; and we imagine they are making local council’s think twice about cutting services so drastically and removing paid staff. Once the decisions of the judicial reviews are announced they are likely to influence any future decisions around libraries throughout the rest of the U.K.
We’re unsure when the decisions will be made at this stage, but we hope that all the campaigners’ hard work and efforts pay off, and that the local communities who will be affected by the cuts, get the library services they deserve and are entitled to.