Brent Council in the Dock – day 3
As promised, here is a update on day 3 of the hearing which ended yesterday. You can read it on the BBC, or even the Belfast Telegraph. Here is a fuller account of the arguments, courtesy of Benedicte Page at the Bookseller:
Judgement in the judicial review into Brent council’s proposed library closures may be given in August, the judge Mr Justice Ouseley said yesterday (21st July), on the concluding day of the High Court proceeding.
Earlier Elizabeth Laing QC, representing the council, had countered the argument made by the claimants’ lawyers that Brent had “closed its mind” to alternative proposals made by community groups for the running of the six libraries proposed for closure. Laing told the court correspondence between interested parties and the council showed “engagement between officers and groups on this process” and that proposals to run the service were assessed by officers in accordance with published criteria—”a robust, viable business case at no cost to the council.” But the proposals made had been “unrealistic”, the court heard.
Laing also told Mr Justice Ouseley that the council’s decision to close libraries had been made with due regard to equality legislation, as it did conduct an equality impact assessment and identify negative impacts of the closures. The duty to give “due regard” to equality impacts only required the council to take “reasonable steps”, proportional to the situation, Laing said.
But Helen Mountfield QC, delivering her final reply, asserted the council had made no analysis of the impact of the closures on particular religious and ethic groups. “It is important to recognise you are imposing a particular disadvantage on children from particular communities and think about the issues,” she said. Brent should also have done its initial analysis earlier, enabling it to ask the right questions during the consultation, Mountfield told the court. Brent council has agreed not to take steps to close any of the six libraries ahead of the judge’s ruling, the court heard.
Brent library campaigners will hold a further event to raise funds for its legal costs on Saturday 20th July. A Disco Dance Party to support Brent S.O.S. Libraries will be held at Preston Mall Community Centre on 30th July from 7.30pm. Tickets £6.00 on the door. Tel: 0208 204 1148.