Please note we are not legal experts so this is a very simplified and incomplete view of what happened in court today.
Today again consisted wholly of Helen Mountfield QC presenting the cases against Gloucestershire County Council and Somerset County Council (whose case is being heard at the same time). The main points made in relation to Gloucestershire were:
- Shortcomings in the decision making process – the needs of local communities and all library users were not taken into account when formulating the library strategy. Several points of evidence (minutes of council meetings etc) were presented showing councillors and officers referring to geographical spread and usage levels as the ONLY criterion in decision making.
- There was a great deal of focus on shortcomings in GCC’s consideration of equality legislation and disproportionate impacts on particular sections of library users/the general populace (eg. the elderly, disabled, parents, young children, people in deprived areas). It was argued that GCC have only considered these issues retrospectively after the library proposals were formulated and announced, and that they were not properly analysed, taken into account, or mitigated or reflected in the final strategy.
- Shortcomings in the consultation process were highlighted – the way information about closures and cuts was presented in the consultation documents was criticised (i.e. little information made public about mobile closures), no consultation sessions held in several libraries facing severe cuts or closure, and consultation data that was collected was not adequately analysed and reflected in the proposals – not least as the consultation continued after the proposals had been approved by cabinet in February, and some users (i.e. mobile library users) were not consulted until after a final decision to withdraw their service had been made and started to be implemented.
Tomorrow, James Goudie QC, representing Gloucestershire and Somerset County Councils, will present the defence arguments.
As the case is running behind schedule tomorrow’s proceedings will start earlier at 10:15am, so members of the public will need to arrive by about 09:45. The case is being heard in Court 17, Birmingham Civil Justice Centre, Bull Street, Birmingham (directions here)
There is some coverage of today’s events on thisisglos