Plans to slash the number of libraries in Lincolnshire from 47 to 15 face their biggest test yet in the High Court.
Campaigners fighting to keep libraries open places such as Crowland, Donington, Market Deeping have won their bid to have Lincolnshire County Council’s library reform plans looked at by a top judge.
The judicial review, granted by the High Court on Friday, will consider the posibility that the county council made its decision to cut the number of libraries it runs by almost two-thirds before a public consultation last year.
Other grounds include the effect it will have on the disabled, elderly and children, as well as evidence that if the cuts go ahead, it will leave Lincolnshire without a comprehensive and efficient library service.
Simon Draper from the campaign group Save Lincolnshire Libraries said: “I very much welcome the High Court’s decision as it has clearly recognised the strength of our case.
“I appeal to Lincolnshire County Council to immediately put a stop to its savage cuts to the library service so that no more damage is caused before the High Court is able to hear our case.”
Members of the county counci’s executive approved the library cuts at a meeting last December in a bid to save almost £2 million a year.
But a 23,000-name petition called for the cuts to be scrapped and last month, a former director of library services in Lincolnshire suggested that the council’s plans were unlawful.
Maurice Nauta, who managed the county’s libraries between 1988 and 2002, said: “I feel that only a full inquiry will be sufficient to properly address the strong evidence that there is serious doubt as to whether the council is complying with its legal obligation to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.”
Crowland parish councillor Peter Bird said: “I think the judicial review is a good thing because it’s not a good thing to close libraries, even though they are sometimes used as community centres.
“I believe the council could look at whether the libraries can be run in other ways with the involvement of parish councils.”
Donington district councillor Jane King said: “The main reason we were so against the library here closing was the fact that it’s well-used and we don’t want it to go.
“People have lost sight of the social aspect of it and as old-fashioned as libraries may be, we need them.”
Coun Nick Worth, Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for libraries, said: “We are determined to defend our decision at the judicial hearing as we remain convinced that all the necessary steps needed to make a lawful decision were taken.
“Our focus now is on preparing the strongest possible case, while continuing to keep in close contact with the communities wanting to become involved in running library services.”