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Court grants permission for JR of decision by council on library service

A High Court judge has given permission for a judicial review challenge to a county council’s proposed changes to its library services provision.

The challenge is being brought by Lincoln resident Simon Draper, who is advised by law firm Public Interest Lawyers.

Lincolnshire County Council said it was determined to defend its decision to adopt the proposals, which would see 30 existing libraries handed over to community groups. The authority would continue to staff the remaining 15 libraries, as well as offer online and mobile services.

The High Court gave permission to Draper on all four grounds of challenge advanced. He argues that:

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  • the consultation undertaken by Lincolnshire was unlawful as the decision had already been taken;
  • 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;
  • Lincolnshire failed to properly consider a 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”;
  • if the cuts went ahead Lincolnshire’s library service would no longer be comprehensive and efficient and therefore would breach national requirements.

Paul Heron from Public Interest Lawyers 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.”

No date has yet been set for the High Court hearing.

Cllr Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries at Lincolnshire, 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.”

He added: “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.”

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