High Court Judge rules GCC’s library cuts unlawful

At this morning’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, His Honour Judge McKenna ruled in favour of Gloucestershire and Somerset library users on the grounds of equalities. A statement from Public Interest Lawyers gives more of the legal detail.

Here is our statement in response to the news:

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.

FoGL and Somerset library campaigners leaving court


Johanna reads FoGL's statement to the waiting media


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.

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17 Responses to High Court Judge rules GCC’s library cuts unlawful

  1. Maggie says:

    Wonderful news. Radio 4’s World at One has just featured it, including a very good, supportive and lengthy interview with Joanna Trollope.

  2. demelzajade says:

    Thanks Maggie – I missed this – hope it’s on I-Player.

  3. Well done to Public Interest Lawyers for all their hard work, a big Thank You to the anonymous claimant for making a stand on behalf of all of us library users and council tax payers, and thank you too to Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries for all the hard work in keeping this issue in the public eye and keeping us informed about the legal challenge. We owe you all a huge debt.

    And, er, GCC owes us rather a huge debt as well. How can they waste our money like this? And how can Cllr Noble continue to be trusted with our libraries now?

  4. NeilM says:

    In view of the learned Judge’s comments Cllrs Hawthorn and Noble, whose plans have been clearly shown to be both flawed and unlawful, have let undoubtedly failed the people of Gloucestershire, and they should be considering resigning from their respective positions. However, as it might prove fatal, I won’t hold my breath.

    A great big thank-you and congratulations to Johanna, Demelza and John, for their magnificent and tireless efforts on behalf of the people of Gloucestershire.

  5. Pingback: Gloucs/Somerset: the judgement | Alan Gibbons’ Blog

  6. Pingback: Voices for the Library» Blog Archive » Victory for Gloucestershire and Somerset

  7. marcusmoore says:

    Which bit of “bad government” does the incompetent, self-serving and ruthless Cllr Hawthorne not understand? He should get himself an education. I suggest he starts by enrolling at his local library and borrowing a few books.

    Friends of Gloucestershire Library are to be congratulated in having the dedication, patience and determination to take the County Council to court.

    I send a huge thank you to all involved in the campaign, but especially to Johanna and Demelza, who have earned the respect and won the admiration of library users across the nation.

  8. Joe K says:

    I suspect the withdrawal of the mobile service from Barton & Tredworth violates the same ruling on equality, because we certainly don’t have adequate access to books otherwise. Hopefully, I’ll get a response from Coun Noble before too long, now…

  9. Joe K says:

    I sometimes wonder if I’m not listed as a ‘persistent complainant’, and therefore judged as suitable to ignore. There’s a thing about that on the Rotten Borough web site (a place that on the face of it, would appear to the average person as Axe-grinder Central, but anyone who has had extended contact with their council, the police, or any source of authority, will know that for every highly strung, excessively punctilious obsessive, there are 0.13 people who have been fitted up and ticked off, simply because they wouldn’t buy a gobbledygook answer, or no answer at all):

    http://www.rottenborough.org.uk/index.html .

  10. Joe K says:

    This bloke here reckons the judge made the right decision, but FOGL were wrong to campaign for that decision, or at least, I think that’s what he’s saying…


  11. Joe K says:

    Ah, you get to edit your typos. Snot fair.

    Eddie would never troll TiG. He makes it very plain that he won’t post there because it’s full of trolls. You must be thinking of ‘admin’. Who is also Eddie. It’s complicated.


    • Who said anything about Eddie?

    • He protests too much.

      Anyway, I am well aware of what Eddie/ Wally/ A Bloke Here/ have to say. They (he) can think what they (he) like.

      We invited Eddie to our meetings several times to share his views with us as the online discussions never go anywhere but sadly he seems a bit of a keyboard warrior and chooses to attack from behind the safety of his computer screen. Shame.

      The fact is we have been vindicated and we were right.

  12. Pingback: High Court Rules GCC’s Library Cuts Unlawful on Grounds of Equality | Friends of Minchinhampton Library

  13. Pingback: An open letter to Ed Vaizey – Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries « Rosehill Readers

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