Our judicial review – the first in the UK – took place in July and the wait for a verdict is almost over. This Thursday 13th October at 10 am at the High Court (Strand), we will find out just what Mr Justice Ousely has to say about library closures in Brent in a ruling that could affect local councils across the country.
Just a few weeks ago, our compadres in Gloucestershire and Somerset had their own Judical Review, and we expect others to follow.
At the hearing on 19 and 20 July John Halford of Bindmans LLP, Helen Mountfield QC, Gerry Facenna and Edward Craven argued that the council adopted a fundamentally flawed and unlawful approach to the objective of making savings, ignoring all alternatives and their duties under Equalities legislation.
Brent Council decided on April 11th 2011 to close 6 (50%) of its libraries despite massive opposition (82%). Meanwhile a single £3 million mega-library is under construction at Wembley Stadium.
These are libraries that are well-used, far from defunct and necessary for community cohesion in areas devoid of other public services. Nor is it a case of budgetary pressures, as the council can clearly afford the relatively small sum necessary. The loss of 6 local libraries will not improve the service for users, who have been told to “get on a bus” and “buy books in Tesco”.
Brent SOS Libraries is also seeking a separate public enquiry by the DCMS under the Museums and Libraries Act 1964. The council’s proposals will leave the borough with just 6 libraries, 3 of which require major upgrade/rebuilding. This does not constitute a “comprehensive” library service.
The DCMS has met with Brent Council, but has yet to speak with campaigners or reveal the outcome of this meeting.
Whatever the outcome, we want the Council to reconsider its approach and work with Brent residents to provide a comprehensive local library service.
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