The group campaigning for libraries in Lincolnshire to be saved has launched a scathing attack on the county council for announcing plans to recover their costs from a legal challenge at the High Court.
As previously reported, Lincolnshire County Council are seeking to reclaim the costs from their legal challenge, estimated to be in the region of £90,000.
The council had successfully defended its decision to cut the number of libraries from 45 to 15, with the remainder being turned into volunteer-run hubs with 10 others.
The new-look service was approved by the council in February despite numerous campaigns by the Save Lincolnshire Libraries group and a second judicial review was thrown out after a hearing in London in July.
A previous judicial review in 2014 had ruled against Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to close 30 libraries in favour of community hubs, forcing the council to modify and resubmit their proposals.
Speaking on behalf of Save Lincolnshire Libraries, Labour county councillor John Hough said:
“Having broken their promise to keep libraries open with the closure of three libraries already confirmed, the leader of the county council Councillor Martin Hill and Councillor Nick Worth are trying to blame everyone else for the fact that they acted unlawfully before the first judicial review.
“They should apologise for the mess they have made of the library service. Their failure to accept the offer from Greenwich Leisure to run the whole library service keeping libraries open across Lincolnshire as well as making the savings the county council wanted seems to have passed them by.
“When Greenwich Leisure came along offering to keep services at a price the council could afford, they should have snapped their hands off and gone with this.
“Instead they were determined to ignore this sensible option and to force communities to try and save their libraries.”
On Thursday, October 22, the High Court published its full judgement, which revealed that the judge refused permission on all grounds.
Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The judge is pretty damning in her assessment of the campaigners’ case, even going as far as to suggest one of their arguments was ‘hopeless’.
“Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped their two ill-considered challenges resulting in around £350,000 of taxpayers’ money being wasted.
“This is frankly outrageous, and we will certainly be consulting our lawyers regarding the recovery of our costs.
“It also raises rather serious questions about the rules surrounding legal aid and the way in which it can be used for what some might argue are political purposes.”
In a previous statement Simon Draper, who initiated the review request, said solicitors, public interest lawyers and his barristers have indicated he has grounds to appeal.
He said:”Along with the judgement, the council itself has decided to put a costs order against me personally.
“This means basically if I come into money, they may decide to activate it and I’ll get a hefty bill.”
Councillor Hough added: “Simon Draper, as a man in the street, should be congratulated for having the courage to stand up to the Executive of the county council, a billion pound organisation.
“While the British legal system has many faults, the fact that an individual can still take an all powerful executive to the High Court to expose the fact that the council is acting unlawfully has to be welcomed.
“Long may that ability for the ordinary British citizen to hold local government or national government to account continue.”