The High Court has approved a judicial review into Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to hand over to volunteers more than 30 libraries to save £2 million and cut more than 170 jobs in the process.
A judge considered documents that had been submitted by Public Interest Lawyers on behalf of Simon Draper, a Lincoln resident opposing the cuts.
The submissions made on behalf of Simon Draper, had been followed by a number of submissions from Lincolnshire County Council.
The judge decided that there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to the High Court for a full judicial hearing and has issued an order giving permission for the case to be heard.
The judge did not restrict the grounds of challenge, and four grounds will be considered by the High Court when the case is heard. A date for the case is still to be arranged.
The judicial review challenge argues:
- that the consultation was unlawful as the decision had already been taken
- that the council failed to ensure that the harm that was going to be caused by their decision was prevented, as required by the Equality Act
- that the council failed to properly consider the proposal by Greenwich Leisure Limited ( a not for profit agency who had bid to run the library service). As a result the Council had failed in its duties under the Localism Act
- that if the cuts go ahead Lincolnshire’s Library Service will no longer be comprehensive and efficient and therefore will breach the national requirements.
Simon Draper, who initiated the judicial review request, said: “Timber (my wife) and I very much welcome the judge’s decision as she has clearly recognised the strength of our case.
“I appeal to the County Council to immediately put a stop to its savage cuts to the library service so that no more damage is caused before the High Court is able to hear our case.”
Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers, acting on behalf of Simon Draper, said: “Whilst we welcome this decision, we call on Lincolnshire County Council to look at their decision and to think again.
“Instead of passing on cuts they should be spending their time looking at ways of how to defend jobs and services in the county, not ways of how best to cut them.”
Phil Dilks, a county councillor and campaigners for Save Lincolnshire Libraries, added: “The attack on libraries by the County Council has gone on long enough.
“With the judge having decided that the case should go to judicial review, which we welcome, the council needs to come to its senses and listen to the people of Lincolnshire.
“More than 25,000 people have signed our petition. It’s about time the council listened to them.
“They should stop sacking staff and cutting library hours and work to provide a proper library service for the future.”
Council defending decision
Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries at the County Council, said: “This now means that all the issues raised by the claimant will be tested in the court. However, we’re determined to defend our decision at the full hearing.
“We remain convinced that all the necessary steps needed to make a lawful decision were taken, along with extensive consultation and a thorough consideration of the impact on our residents.
“Under our plans, we’re likely to end up with more library provision than we have now, empowered communities and substantial savings – it would be a real shame to miss out on all this because of this challenge.
“Our focus now is on preparing the strongest possible case, while continuing to keep in close contact with the communities wanting to become involved in running library services.”