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Library campaigners win right to judicial review over closures
07.07.11 | Lisa Campbell
A judicial review into the proposed closure of 10 libraries in Gloucestershire should go ahead, a court has ruled today. The ruling means that the injunction in place preventing Gloucestershire County Council making any further closures is to remain, with the hearing likely to take place at the end of September. In a further boost to library campaigners, library users on the Isle of Wight have had their bid for a High Court judicial review put back on track, after a resident found out she would be granted legal aid. Five of the 11 libraries in the Isle of Wight have been threatened with closure by the Isle of Wight Council.
Richard Stein and Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co solicitors, which is representing campaigners in the Isle of Wight, said in a statement: “Now that legal aid funding has been granted, we are preparing to issue legal proceedings at the High Court in London on behalf of a local resident to challenge the council’s decision to reduce the opening hours of some libraries and to stop running others. We have advised our client that she has a good case and expect the court to grant permission for a full judicial review.” It remains unclear what contribution the Legal Services Commission has asked the campaigners to make to legal costs.
Meanwhile, solicitors have told campaigners the High Court date for the judicial review of library closures in Brent has been set for 19th and 20th July. Six Libraries in Brent have been threatened with closure.
Libraries campaigner Desmond Clarke said the decisions to allow the judicial reviews were “remarkable”. He said: “It is wonderful achievement for the campaigners who have fought bureaucracy, they have got the judges to grant a judicial review and now we hope there will be reviews in the cases of Isle of Wight and Somerset too.”
Gloucestershire campaigner Johanna Anderson said: "We are delighted the judge has agreed we have an argument. It is a novelty to be listened to by an impartial person because we were blocked by the County Council. It should never have come to this, we shouldn’t have had to sit in a courtroom to be listened to."
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, leader of Gloucestershire, said: "This outcome is entirely expected and we now await the full hearing, which we understand will focus on examining the process that was followed in the consultation and decision-making. We have said from the outset that it is right to focus our resources on the most vulnerable, and that means difficult decisions about making savings in other areas."
He said the council could continue to "work with the community groups who want to take over library buildings". And added: "This will be our focus in the coming months as we continue to support them to develop their business plans to ensure they can be successful in the long term. We have always been confident in our library strategy. I’m pleased that we only have to wait until September for the full hearing."