Court rejects libraries case

Library campaigners outside the High Court in London. From left, leader of the Labour group at Lincolnshire County Council John Hough, Labour county councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks, Labour's shadow minister for libraries Chris Bryant MP and Lesley Hough of Save Lincolnshire Libraries. EMN-150722-102504001
Library campaigners outside the High Court in London. From left, leader of the Labour group at Lincolnshire County Council John Hough, Labour county councillor for Deeping St James Phil Dilks, Labour's shadow minister for libraries Chris Bryant MP and Lesley Hough of Save Lincolnshire Libraries. EMN-150722-102504001

A scaled-down library service is on the way now a High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge to county council cutbacks.

For the time being, the council will keep 15 core libraries while up to 30 others become “community hubs” run by volunteers – or close if volunteers cannot be found.

Nick Worth’s bizarre attempt to switch the blame for closing libraries on those campaigning to keep them open demonstrates the council’s arrogance on what has been a total dog’s breakfast from day one.

Coun Phil Dilks

The whole service could be handed over to a private company by next year following a competitive procurement process.

Last year, Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners won a judicial review when it opposed £2million council cutbacks along similar lines.

This time, the council claimed victory and Coun Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “We’re delighted with the judge’s decision.

“However, it’s disappointing that at least £350,000 has had to be wasted defending plans that are clearly best for taxpayers, best for library users and best for local communities.”

Coun Worth said delays caused by the legal action led to the Co-op withdrawing a bid to run a library in Lincoln, which means it will close.

He continued: “Hopefully, the campaigners will now see their actions are only having a negative effect on services, and they are doing anything but save Lincolnshire libraries.

“Now we have cleared this hurdle, we can concentrate on putting the new-look service in place – something that will ensure the future of local libraries.”

But Labour’s Coun Phil Dilks, who campaigned to save libraries – including Deepings Library – hit back and said: “Nick Worth’s bizarre attempt to switch the blame for closing libraries on those campaigning to keep them open demonstrates the council’s arrogance on what has been a total dog’s breakfast from day one.

“If the county council had followed the rules and listened to sense over the past two years, they would not have lost the first judicial review and there could have been no case for a second.

“But both the Legal Aid Board and the High Court judge clearly accepted there was a case worthy of a second three-day judicial review.

“Much of the legal argument last week was about the timing of the legal challenge and whether a council seeking best value could be justified in dismissing a credible offer of a better service in running all its libraries within the available budget.

“Instead, we in the Deepings are faced with a totally inadequate mobile visit once a week.

“We await the full legal decision.

“Meantime, instead of closing libraries such as ours in the Deepings, Nick Worth and the Tories should deliver on their election pledges of ‘better access and more opening hours for libraries’.”

Coun Worth revealed a few of the community hubs “are ready to go live in the next few weeks” and all of them should be in place by the end of September.

The council says it will continue to provide online services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library.

Previously ...

Lincolnshire library cuts in High Court once more