Shadow libraries minister Dan Jarvis has called the judicial review rejection of Surrey's plans for volunteer libraries "the fourth example of the High Court doing Ed Vaizey's job for him".
Local residents yesterday (3rd April) won their legal challenge against the withdrawal of paid employees from 10 of the county's libraries, with Mr Justice Wilkie declaring the council's proposals "unlawful" on equalities grounds.
It comes after judicial review decisions on library cuts in Brent, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Jarvis said the High Court had had to do the job libraries minister Ed Vaizey [pictured] should have done. "This government has showed no urgency and no leadership in tackling this problem," he said. "The 1964 Libraries Act is very clear that the government has a defined role to play in ensuring adequate library provision is sustained across the country. Surrey council's decision to remove these staff has now been deemed unlawful by the High Court."
He added: "Whilst I accept that libraries can and should bring in volunteers to reduce costs, this should be about sensible engagement with the local community rather than a shuffling-off of responsibility. Volunteers are important and welcome additions, but I have yet to meet a group who would not rather be supporting a service adequately funded by the state."
Surrey county council has said the High Court challenge was won on a technical point, and that its library plans may yet go ahead.
Meanwhile North Yorkshire County Council, which plans to transfer many of its 42 libraries to volunteers, has said its plans will be unaffected by the Surrey decision, according to the Yorkshire Post.
Councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library services, said: “We are engaging closely with volunteer groups and putting up necessary support services to ensure that these people have got help and assistance as and when they require. It is not what Surrey Council is doing that was wrong, but the way it was doing it.
"We feel through the way we have worked so closely with local communities throughout this process, we are on the right side of the law.”