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Campaigners request judicial review over Lincolnshire library cuts

Campaigners have requested a judicial review of Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to cut library services across the county.

The review papers from the High Court in London were delivered to the council at the end of January.

If granted, the judicial review would look into the decision to close a number of libraries in Lincolnshire in favour of community hubs and mobile stops.

The executive at Lincolnshire County Council approved plans to save £1.7 million a year by handing over many libraries to community volunteers.

Under the proposals, 30 libraries will become community-run libraries, plus in some areas community hubs will be created where no library resources presently exist. Over 100 jobs would be lost in the process.

The 15 core libraries, including Lincoln Central, will continue to be run by the authority.

The judicial review request was issued by Public Interest Lawyers of Eight Hylton Street in Birmingham, on behalf of Simon Draper from Lincoln.

The review asks for an order to stop the council’s decision, claiming that the prior consultation was unlawful because “decisions had already been taken”, the council failed to take regard of its obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty as required by the Equality Act 2010, and the council failed to properly consider a proposal by Greenwich Leisure, a charitable social enterprise, to take over the service.

Finally, the papers also state that if the cuts go ahead, the libraries service will no longer be a comprehensive and efficient library service, as required by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.

Simon Draper said: “My wife, who is disabled, and I are appalled at the decision by the County Council to cut the library service in Lincolnshire.

“For people across Lincolnshire the library provides an essential service for learning, enjoyment and information with support from experienced staff.”

Paul Heron, from Public Interest Lawyers added: “Great credit should go to Simon for caring enough about the library service in Lincolnshire to bring this legal action.

“We hope to convince the court that as a matter of law the County Council have not acted correctly in the way they have conducted the consultation process and ignored the wishes of people in Lincolnshire.

“I would urge all – to once again lobby their councillors and ask them not to make these cuts which will devastate the library service if they are carried out.”

Campaign group Save Lincolnshire Libraries also supports the request for a judicial review.

Phil Dilks Labour councillor for Deeping St James and spokesperson for Save Lincolnshire Libraries said: “We regret that Lincolnshire County Council is steam-rolling ahead with seriously flawed cuts to remove statutory provision for more than thirty libraries rather than listen to 25,000 council tax payers who have actively supported our campaign.”

Nick Worth, Conservative councillor Holbeach, is the Executive Member for Libraries at County Council. He said: “We’ve only recently received the details of the claim, and are now beginning to consider our response.

“Before the decision was made, the council carried out extensive consultation and thoroughly considered the impact on our residents.

“So we’ll be presenting the strongest possible defence, showing that all the necessary steps needed to make a lawful decision were taken.

“In light of this, it is our intention to continue the implementation of the changes and to work with communities that have expressed an interest in working with us to deliver library services across the county.”

Meanwhile, community groups have come forward to take over all 30 libraries earmarked for closure, meaning more remote areas under threat will still receive a service.