In two minutes flat this morning (17 July) a High Court judge brought a county’s library destruction plans to a screeching halt.
The Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign (in the person of local resident Simon Draper) had called a judicial review of Lincolnshire County Council’s widely-hated decision to close an astonishing 29 of its 44 libraries. That would leave just 15 attempting to provide the full service required by law – and 29 dumped on to reluctant local volunteers to run if they could.
Mr Justice Collins today pronounced the decision ‘flawed’ on two grounds: (1) poor consultation and (2) failure to ‘properly deal with’an alternative plan [in this case, a bid by an experienced charitable body (Greenwich Leisure Ltd) to run the service, making all the budget cuts required but still saving all 44 libraries and more than 160
“These two tactics are among the most dangerous being employed by councils against common sense and common humanity,” said The Library Campaign (TLC), the national charity that supports library users.
The Library Campaign chair Laura Swaffield said: “If the judicial review outlaws these two nasty tricks, suddenly there’s hope for threatened library services everywhere.
“Time and again, The Library Campaign hears of councils carrying out skewed consultations designed to get the answer the council wants – and ignoring all opposition.
“Time and again, The Library Campaign hears of councils that are pig-headedly determined to wreck their library services – refusing any other ways to make savings.
“It’s theoretically possible that Lincs CC will appeal – but the judge made it clear that it would ‘have difficulty’s doing so. So – fingers crossed.
“Meanwhile, TLC is celebrating alongside Save Lincs Libraries. We are proud to have supported them.”
Laura added: “As so often, it is library users who have stood up to defend this vital public service. Not the professional bodies – and certainly not the libraries minister.
“Ed Vaizey’s policy basically seems to be sabotage – in particular, encouraging the growth of volunteer libraries at the expense of a proper service. The idea has never been researched. Now, we hope, it will be impossible to enforce this whole crazy idea against the wishes of communities.