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High Court ruling hands victory to campaigners

Campaigners fighting library closures in Northamptonshire have hailed a review at the High Court as a Judge orders the county council to rethink its plans.

The Council had hoped to cut ties with 21 libraries, and had reduced opening times as it looked to save cash. The council is in dire financial straits and says it needs to save £70m over the next 12 months or face bankruptcy. Local residents took the council to court over the decision to cut library services, and last month the council paused its proposals.

However today's judgement, (14 August 2018), means the council must officially rethink its plans, having been told by Mrs Justice Yip that the decision to close the libraries was not legal.

She said: "My provisional view is that the Cabinet decisions of 27 February 2018 and 13 March 2018 should be quashed… The flaws in the defendant’s decision making which I have identified are such that I consider that the whole question of library provision needs to be revisited by the defendant, paying attention to its legal obligations and all material considerations.”

The council had wanted to sell off 12 of the libraries, but Council Leader Councillor Matt Golby has said he is now looking to work with community groups to find a satisfactory outcome.

In a statement he said: "As we announced earlier this month, we had already made a decision to pause the proposed changes to the local library service for further consideration and are continuing to work closely with community groups, partners and interested parties within the wider context of the council’s budget recovery programme."

The judgement highlighted a failure to follow due process in its decision-making. Campaigners welcomed the high Court ruling, describing it as "common sense".

CILIP Chief Executive  Nick Poole said: "[The judgement] sends a clear message that financial pressures do not release local authorities from their statutory duty to provide comprehensive and efficient library services.

"However, with increasing numbers of local authorities are warning that they face bankruptcy it is essential that Northamptonshire County Council receive the emergency support they need, and that a fair funding settlement for all local authorities is reached as a matter of urgency.

"Every community has the right to benefit from a quality local library service and we will continue to work with National and Local Government to ensure that the necessary funding and support are available to guarantee this.”

More reaction and detail on the ruling will follow as we get it.

Read the full judgement here.

Cropped image CC BY 2.0 Hazel Nicholson


Contributor: Information Professional
Published:  14 August 2018


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