Tag Archives: equalities act

Victory for Gloucestershire and Somerset

Gloucestershire and Somerset library campaigners heard today that they have won their claim over library cuts and closures. The judge ruled in favour of their claims regarding the councils’ neglect to consider or address the findings of the Equality Impact Assessments that had been conducted. A quashing order means that the campaigners have put a halt to the council’s current plans for libraries – both local authorities’ plans will have to be rethought.

We would like to congratulate both Gloucestershire and Somerset campaigners and their lawyers on their success. We know it has been a long battle and their determination has paid off.

Regarding the councils’ failures to comply with the public sector equality duties, His Honour Judge McKenna ruled:

“The real question on this aspect of the case, it seems to me, is whether there was a conscious directing of the mind by the decision makers to their obligations under the legislation and in particular to the need to exercise the duty to have due regard in substance and with rigour and based on sufficient information, appropriately analysed.
“In my judgment, on the preponderance of the evidence, no such due regard was had in substance.  In order to discharge their respective duties, GCC and SCC should have undertaken a sufficiently thorough information gathering exercise and then properly analysed that information.  In this case I conclude that both GCC and SCC failed to comply with that obligation, accepting as I do the substance of the Claimants’ criticisms made of their respective information gathering and analysis to which I have referred above.”

Image from The Bookseller

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries write:

“We are delighted with the outcome of the judicial review. This outcome follows the proper scrutiny of Gloucestershire County Council’s library plans in court; scrutiny which was never allowed under the councils own processes. The judge’s decision to rule in the claimant’s favour on equality grounds is a real vindication of our campaign, which has long argued that the removal of public library services from the most disadvantaged, deprived and vulnerable members of our community is grossly unfair. We are also pleased to learn that the council have been denied permission to appeal the decision.

“However, as Gloucestershire tax payers we regret the inevitable expense that will now be incurred by the county, and which could have been avoided if only the council had listened to and engaged with service users – they have seriously let their taxpayers and electorate down. Over the last year library users and retired professional librarians have repeatedly warned the council that they were in breach of the law, but party politics was always placed before these concerns, which were again and again dismissed.

“Gloucestershire residents should never have had to go through this stressful, upsetting and expensive process and serious questions now also need to be answered by the secretary of state Ed Vaizey.  It is Mr Vaizey’s duty to intervene when authorities are not meeting their obligations to provide a library service available to all who wish to use it. Why were Gloucestershire County Council allowed to continue down this destructive path? In opposition Mr Vaizey was a vocal critic of library closures yet our many pleas for help have been ignored whilst library users were left to fight this alone – it is clear that he left his convictions at the door on entering office.

“We would like to thank supporters of the campaign locally and nationally, and urge all Gloucestershire library users to keep a close eye on the county council’s activities in the coming months to ensure they do their job properly this time round. We also need to be vigilant to cuts which may be planned for the future. Libraries are more important than ever in times of financial crises, when education costs are rising astronomically and many people are losing their jobs.  We hope that come the next county council elections, voters will remember the arrogance displayed by the Gloucestershire County Council administration on this issue.

UPDATE

“It has been brought to our attention that Cllr Hawthorne has told the press that the council “lost on a small technical point”. This is absolutely NOT the case. The judge said “the decisions under challenge were not just unlawful but bad government” hence the total quashing of the library plans and telling them they have to start again.  It was VERY serious that they lost on this point.  The judge said it was a “substantive error of law” and a “substantial breach”

“We should receive a full transcript of the judgement in due course. That Cllr Hawthorne still considers his public sector equalities duties as a “small technical point” is extremely worrying.”

See also:

 

 

Outcome of Brent Judicial Review

Voices for the Library would like to express our disappointment with this morning’s ruling over the future of Brent libraries.  We would also like to re-state our support for library campaigners in Brent who have fought so hard to protect their library service for the good of the broader community.

The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere.  Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures.  They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.

Libraries across the country provide a vital service for many across the boundaries of society.  From young and old to rich and poor, libraries provide services for everyone. In the age of the internet it is easy to assume everyone has access to a wealth of free information.  The reality is that there are 9 million people in this country who are not connected to the internet.  For those 9 million people, the library is the only resource they have.  For parents of young children, the library plays an important role in supporting their development and improving their literacy skills.  For the elderly it is a vital lifeline to ensure they are not excluded from society.

Those who care about libraries across this country must come together and ensure that this ruling does not have the effect that many council leaders desire.  Together we can make a difference.  Together we can put pressure on Ed Vaizey to fulfil his commitment as Minister for libraries and ensure that library services across the country are truly comprehensive and efficient.  Write to Ed Vaizey and your councillors, get involved in local campaigns, encourage everyone you know to support and use their local library.  Together we can stop our library service being totally destroyed by those that do not understand the benefits they bring to local communities.

To the campaigners in Brent, we also say that whilst we share your disappointment, we hope you continue to fight your case at every turn.  You can be assured that we will stand and fight with you.  Today has undoubtedly been a setback but the outpouring of support for public libraries throughout the day should remind us that our cause is right.

Campaigners from Brent and around the country will be meeting on Saturday 22nd October at  University of London Union to co-ordinate efforts. See here for more details.

See here for a response from Unison and here for a response from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Update: 20/10/11

Brent campaigners have been granted permission to appeal the decision made by Mr Justice Ouseley. The appeal is due to be heard in three weeks.