As reported yesterday, a case challenging GCC’s library cuts has been launched in the High Court, by Public Interest Lawyers, representing a client in Gloucestershire.
“It’s frustrating to be forced into a costly legal process in a difficult financial climate and when we are focusing on supporting the many communities working hard to make a success of running local services.”
Although Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries are not the claimant in the judicial review, since GCC announced its cuts to the library service in November 2010 we, and other library users, have been warning that their plans may be illegal, including in our statements to full council on the 19th January, and our statement to Cabinet on the 2nd February. Opposition Councillors were so worried by the potential illegality of the proposals that they ‘called in’ the Cabinet’s decision to approve the library plans to the Council’s scrutiny committee. But their concerns too were thrown out by a Tory majority vote.
The county-wide petition, signed by 15,000+ people from across the county, called for an independent and transparent review of the plans for the library service. As pointed out when the petition was presented, commissioning such a review would have been a whole lot cheaper than the legal challenge the Council may now face – but the request was ignored.
When a Council is suspected of acting unlawfully it must, of course, be held to account, but no Gloucestershire resident will have wanted things to come to this. It is our money that the administration will be using to defend themselves in court, regardless of whether we want them to or not – money that could be used to conduct a review of the library plans, and to re-invest in the libraries and other public services. But Councillor Hawthorne and his colleagues in the administration are simply too arrogant to admit that they have made a mistake, and it is we, the Gloucestershire taxpayers who suffer.
The only person to have ‘forced’ Mark Hawthorne into a costly legal process is himself.