Published on 2 Jul 2011 Sections

Libraries latest battleground in legal fight against cuts

A leading public interest lawyer tells Channel 4 News the Government should expect more legal challenges against spending cuts, following a court battle over library closures in Gloucestershire.

Lechlade library

Anti-cuts campaigners will increasingly use the law to challenge Government spending decisions, a leading human rights lawyer has told Channel 4 News.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers has brought an action against Gloucestershire County Council in a bid to stop the local authority closing ten of the county’s 38 libraries.

One Gloucestershire resident won a High Court injunction last month, although the council says it is confident of victory following a hearing to seek permission for a judicial review on 7 July.

Mr Shiner told Channel 4 News the Coalition should expect similar lawsuits in the future as campaign groups use lawyers to challenge public spending cuts.

I think the law is a legitimate part of an overally strategy that people are using now to try to stop these cutbacks. Phil Shiner

He said: “I think the law is a legitimate part of an overally strategy that people are using now to try to stop these cutbacks.

“Another big case we have got coming up in the autumn is a full two-day hearing challenging the decision on December 9 to allow universities to rais tuition fees to up to £9,000.”

He added: “There are a huge number of areas out there. I am aware of a number of other lawyers in this field who are lining up potential challenges to Government cutbacks, and how they affect a range of disadvantaged groups.”

The news comes as Disability Alliance announced it is seeking to take the Government to court for failing to ensure disabled people do not suffer hardship as a result of cuts to benefits.

Councillor Sue Coakley from Lechlade Town Council said: “We understand that they need to cut costs, but the solution they are trying to impose is that we lose our county library.

“The library is at the heart of our community.

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