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High Court challenge launched over library cuts in Gloucestershire and Somerset
23.02.11 | Bookseller Staff
A High Court challenge is being launched over library closures in Gloucestershire and Somerset, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind.
A challenge to the coalition government's "vague" Big Society concept, the judicial review will focus on the legality of proposals drawn up by county councils to cut library services in their areas, including a slashing of 38 Gloucestershire libraries with full opening hours to just nine.
Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), acting on behalf of local library users, has sent a letter before action, challenging the reliance of the two shires "on Big Society community-transfer initiatives" which conflicts with their "clear statutory obligation to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for everyone wanting to use it". The News Post Leader reports that the firm's lawyers also argue that the councils did not consult properly with local people nor pay proper attention to the needs of vulnerable groups.
PIL said in a statement: "Gloucestershire County Council proposes to reduce the number of libraries with full opening hours from 38 to nine, and to cut the mobile library service for persons in rural areas entirely.
"Somerset County Council initially proposed to cut 20 of 34 libraries and to reduce mobile libraries from six services to two. They have since announced that the cuts will be reduced to one third of libraries, but without showing how this would be financed."
PIL solicitor Phil Shiner added: "Councils cannot pin their hopes on vague notions of the Big Society when they are required by Parliament to maintain a comprehensive and efficient library service for everyone in the county."
The launch is expected to take place within a few weeks.