The High Court has upheld the challenge made by campaigners to Lincolnshire County Council’s plans to withdraw funding from 32 of its 47 libraries.
This morning Mr Justice Collins ruled in favour of the judicial review brought by Save Lincolnshire Libraries to stop libraries being turned into community hubs instead, as LCC aimed to save £1.7million from its budget.
Mr Justice Collins said: “I have decided that the means by which the county council decided and reached their decision was flawed, in two respects.
“In respect of the consultation, and of their failure to properly deal with an application by a charitable organisation [Greenwich Leisure Limited] which already ran library services for two London boroughs, Greenwich and Woolwich.
“I have decided that the decision made in December last year should be quashed.”
The decision was welcomed today by Grantham county councillor Charmaine Morgan, a member of the Save Lincolnshire Libraries Campaign, who said: “The High Court ruling has shown that the Cabinet of LCC should have listened to members of the council’s scrutiny committee who voted against moving forward with library cuts. The council had strong responses from children and disabled people who identified they would lose key services and they were not listened to.”
The proposed changes to sevices will now be reviewed by LCC’s Executive after an additional period of consultation.
Richard Wills, Executive Director at LCC, said: “We are, of course, disappointed with the decision.
“We believe that our proposals would have increased library provision in the county, while also making substantial savings, meaning taxpayers would be getting a much better deal.
“The judge agreed there was a need to make savings, that our proposals would meet our statutory duties and that we’d carefully considered the impact on all residents.
“However, his decision means we will now need to undertake further consultation and re-examine the proposal from Greenwich Leisure Ltd.
“Ironically, although we must consider that proposal as a community offer to take over the council’s services under the Localism Act, it could lead to the library service being put out to procurement and outsourced to a commercial organisation.
“We will now address the points raised by the judge and remain open-minded.
“However, we need to take time to consider the best way forward, and will announce our next steps in the near future.
“In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep in close contact with the communities wanting to become involved in running library services.
“What this judgement doesn’t change is the need for us to find further yearly savings of £90m by 2018.”
For more on the proposed changes to library services, please visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/librariesconsultation