LATEST: Our appeal was rejected on Dec 21 2011. (See below)
We applied immediately to the Supreme Court, which takes very few cases per year. This was denied on Feb 3 2012.
We are now challenging the DCMS to finally investigate the closures according the Libraries and Museums Act 1964 which states that local authorities must provide “a comprehensive and efficient” service. The courts cannot rule on this, and it is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to investigate.
The department met with Brent Council in June 2011, but has so far failed to meet us or to respond to the 10,000+ complaints made by Prestons users.
The Appeal – November 10 & 11 2011
The appeal was fast-tracked on Oct 19 following the High Court verdict on Oct 13 2011.
The judgement rejected our appeal. Read them here:
Excellent accounts of both days can be found:
- I spy…an update on the Appeal by Elaine
- Day 1 of the Appeal by Martin Francis
- Discriminating Decisions by Tara Brady
(They are obviously not exhaustive, just snapshots by people who attended.)
The Appellants’ (i.e. Margaret, Steve and Nipuni’s) new QC, Dinah Rose, opened and closed the case with the Council’s QC making her own submissions half way through. Dinah was to argue the Council:
- did not appreciate the likely impact of its plans to close libraries on particular groups in the community, such as Asian people, and without understanding this impact properly could not make a lawful decision compatible with its Equality Act 2010 duties to eliminate discrimination;
- did not assess need for local library services, especially that of children; and
- was unfair to community groups who put forward proposals to save the threatened libraries.
The High Court – July 19 – 23 2011
The judicial review into Brent’s library closure plan took place between Tue 19 – Thur 23 July 2011. The public galleries were full and we received a great deal of media coverage.
On 13 October, Mr Justice Ouseley found against us. We vowed to fight on knowing closure is uneconomic, unnecessary and ideological. Immediately, the 5 libraries were boarded up, with a 6th, Kensal Rise, prevented by children. All 6 are closed to the public pending an appeal. Brent promised not to dispose of books and equipment till the Appeal, but having preemptively tried to gut Preston library on Mon 16 Oct, locals maintain a vigil to ensure they remove nothing.
John Halford, acting on behalf of Brent SOS Libraries campaign, says a decision is possible mid-August, but could come as late as October.
This is the country’s first legal action regarding library closures. You can read accounts of day 1, day 2 and day 3 here. However, please be aware that the arguments are necessarily complex and only aspects have been covered in these pages. If you want to understand them better, please see the documents below.
We argue is that the Council adopted a fundamentally flawed, and unlawful, approach to the objective of making savings in its budget in this case, in particular because it:
- started from the false premise that library closures were an inevitability (thereby closing its mind to reasonable alternatives);
- failed to assess local need at the right time, or adequately;
- failed to comply with equality legislation, and its own impact assessment policies; and
- failed to disclose its criteria, and reasons, for rejecting alternative community-based means of retaining some or all of the libraries earmarked for closure.
The closure decision will have serious, and probably irreversible, consequences for those who rely on the six libraries in question, including the Claimants.
Given the importance of the decision for local people, the Council was obliged to explore all the options carefully and make sure that it had accurate evidence about the likely impact of the decision, in particular on disadvantaged groups. If the Council had approached the matter with an open mind and avoided the errors above, the outcome of the decision-making process could have been radically different.
Grounds for Brent SOS’s (our) claim:
Below are the papers filed by Brent Council in their defence: