Great News! – Somerset’s Library Closure Plan Ruled Unlawful

From the BBC

Council decisions to close libraries in Gloucestershire and Somerset can be challenged, a judge has ruled.

The three-day High Court hearing was brought by campaigners fighting the proposals in the two English counties.

In Somerset, 11 libraries face closure while Gloucestershire County Council wants to close 10.

Judge Martin McKenna has ruled the councils acted unlawfully by not considering the impact on vulnerable people living in the two counties.

In a statement, Public Interest Lawyers, which was representing the campaigners, said it was “very pleased” with the ruling.
‘Big society’

Daniel Carey, of the firm, said campaigners were worried about the impact of the cuts on minority groups.

He said they had been “pointing to the disproportionate effect that the cuts would have on disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, single mothers and the disabled”.

“Today’s High Court ruling sends a clear message not only to Gloucestershire and Somerset, but to every council in the country that catering for the needs of the vulnerable must be at the heart of any decision to cut important services such as libraries.

“The ‘big society’ cannot be relied upon to justify disenfranchising vulnerable individuals from the services on which they rely.

“I am very pleased for the thousands of residents who have supported this campaign,” he added.

Demelza Jones, from Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, said the group was “absolutely delighted” with the judge’s ruling.

“This is a real vindication for our campaign which has long said that is it unfair to remove libraries from the most disadvantaged/vulnerable members of our communities,” she said.
‘Icing on cake’

Campaigners argued the councils had to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service under the 1964 Museums Act.

James Goudie QC, representing both Gloucestershire and Somerset county councils, had argued that a comprehensive service did not mean blanket coverage over a geographical area.

He said that community-run libraries were “the icing on the cake” and if they were to fail then the council would still be providing a comprehensive service.

He also argued that libraries could not be exempt from council budget cuts.

He added that the councils had carried out proper consultation and assessments on how policy changes would affect the most vulnerable groups.

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