Well I've just heard the good news - library closures have been stopped so that courts can look at the legality of the closures. See below the Public Interest Lawyers press release. Many of us have long argued that the County failed miserably with it's consultation process and failed to take account of many aspects when it put in place this programme of cuts. Indeed you can see now the results of their consultation which have been obtained via Freedom of Information - see here. As the campaign group say: "How can GCC claim they have ‘listened’ to the public when they are charging ahead with implementing these, clearly, deeply unpopular and feared unworkable plans?"
This court action will be a chance for all factors to be considered and by all accounts - I hope it means that cuts to mobile services just announced will now not take place. In the meantime the campaign are still collecting contributions towards the legal challenge. If you wish to donate, details of how you can are on our website here. You can see my letter before Christmas questioning the consultation here and see the Stroud Against the Cuts March video here.
HIGH COURT ISSUES INJUNCTION AGAINST GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL PREVENTING LIBRARY CLOSURES
The High Court today issued an Injunction against Gloucestershire County Council stopping its planned library closures in their tracks. Public Interest lawyers obtained the Injunction as part of the judicial review case being brought on behalf of a Gloucestershire library user opposing the library cuts. The case has the support of a large number of Gloucestershire library users. The Injunction prevents the Council from:
1. Withdrawing funding from any library which it currently funds;
2. Transferring or agreeing to transfer any library building or lease or responsibility
for running any existing library;
3. Transferring or agreeing to transfer any mobile library or other library asset (such as computers, shelving etc.); and
4. Closing or taking any steps to close any library.
The injunction is effective immediately. The Injunction preserves the status-quo to allow the Court to fully review the lawfulness of the Council’s cuts to library provision at a hearing on 7 July 2011. If the challenge is successful, then it will proceed to a full hearing quickly thereafter.
Until today, Gloucestershire County Council was pressing ahead with the library cuts, despite strong public opposition with the county. Mobile libraries, issuing over 100,000 books a year to care homes and children in deprived areas were due to be taken out of action over the next few weeks. The Council wants to reduce the number of libraries with full opening hours from 38 to 9 and to withdraw funding from 10 of those libraries altogether. The scale of the cuts is more than twice the percentage reduction in central government funding.
Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said as follows: “The High Court has stopped Gloucestershire County Council’s library cuts in their tracks today. It cannot proceed with closures, and must continue to fund libraries, until the legality of these cuts has been properly decided by the Court.”
Daniel Carey, also a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, added that: “The Council was in such haste to push these cuts through it couldn’t even wait until the consultation period was over. It has tried to do the same with the court case, but the High Court has today ensured that these cuts will receive the full scrutiny of the law. The Council has very clear statutory duties to provide libraries and these plans breach them.”