'Vaizey ignored us', say library campaigners

'Vaizey ignored us', say library campaigners

Somerset and Gloucestershire library campaigners have expressed their delight following victory this morning in the High Court.

His Honour Judge McKenna quashed the decision by the two councils to close a sizeable proportion of their library networks.

Meanwhile culture minister Ed Vaizey was also put under the spotlight, as campaigners claiming he had "ignored" their fight.

Speaking outside the court, Johanna Anderson, representing the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, told waiting media: "The judge's decision to rule in the claimant's favour on equality grounds is a real vindication of our campaign, which has long argued that the removal of public library services from the most disadvantaged, deprived and vulnerable members of our community is grossly unfair."

But, she added, that "as Gloucestershire taxpayers we regret the inevitable expense that will now be incurred by the county, and which could have been avoided if only the council had listened to and engaged with service users", saying the council "had seriously let their taxpayers and electorate down".

And in an attack on the culture minister, Anderson added: "Why were Gloucestershire County Council allowed to continue down this destructive path? In opposition Mr Vaizey was a vocal critic of library closures yet our many pleas for help have been ignored whilst library users were left to fight this alone—it is clear that he left his convictions at the door on entering office." She urged Gloucestershire library users to "keep a close
eye" on the council's activities in the coming months to "ensure they do their job properly this time around".

Peter Murphy, speaking for Somerset campaigners, highlighted the financial struggle to raise the £9,000 needed as community contribution to the legal fight and warned that under the "Big Society" vulnerable individuals were in danger of being disenfranchised.

Daniel Carey of Public Interest Lawyers, representing the campaigners, said the judgement was "a vindication for library campaigners in Somerset and Gloucestershire and nationally, and for the rule of law" and said it "behoves the culture minister to step in" and bring about "a proper reappraisal of library provision in this country".

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said today: "We note the judgment in the Somerset and Gloucester libraries judicial review and are considering its implications."