Several Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries members attended the High Court in Birmingham yesterday (7th July) for the judicial review hearing bought against GCC by Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of a Gloucestershire resident.
As reported in the Independent, The Telegraph, The Bookseller and across the local and regional media, permission for judicial review was granted on all three of the grounds forwarded by the counsel speaking on behalf of Public Interest Lawyers and the claimant: 1. Potential failure to consider the statutory requirements of the 1964 Public Libraries Act, 2. Potential failure to properly consider equality impact assessments, 3. Potential failure to consult adequately.
The case will be heard in court in late September 2011 (this was the earliest date possible as the courts break for the summer). Until then, an injunction is in place which prevents the council closing or removing funding from any currently funded and operational library (static or mobile). The council are allowed to continue discussions with groups regarding ‘community transfer’ of libraries (in case they ultimately win the case, and so are in a position to proceed with their plans without further delay), but may not do anything which can be seen as implementation, i.e. signing agreements or transferring assets.
There are still some funding issues to be resolved with the Legal Services Commission which we will update you on as soon as we are informed by Public Interest Lawyers. Whatever happens, it seems FoGL will still be expected to make a ‘community contribution’ to the case, so if you would like to donate to the fundraising effort but haven’t yet, please still feel free to do so (details of how to do this here).
Of course, we’re not lawyers, so do not pretend this is a full and detailed account of what went on in court, but instead a brief and rather simplified summary.
Here is the statement we have made to the press:
‘We are really pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing and await with interest the proper scrutiny of GCC’s plans for our library service in court. This scrutiny has never been allowed within GCC’s own procedures, where party politics has appeared to be prioritised before the needs and concerns of service users – including some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.
However, as Gloucestershire taxpayers, we regret the expense that may now be incurred by the county, which could have been avoided if only GCC had paused in their plans and listened to and engaged meaningfully with service users, and at central government level if DCMS and Ed Vaizey had fulfilled their duty to superintend.
Public libraries are facing unprecedented cuts and closures nationwide, and we hope that other authorities will note the outcome of today’s hearing when formulating their own plans for the future of their library services’.
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