13 Oct 2011

Library campaigners lose high court challenge

Campaigners in Brent, north London, lose their high court bid to save six libraries from closure as Mr Justice Ouseley dismisses their application for judicial review.

books on shelf (G)

The campaigners argued that the decision to close the libraries was “fundamentally flawed and unlawful” and accused Brent Council of failing to comply with its statutory duties. But Mr Ouseley rejected their arguments.

Brent SOS Libraries, the group fighting to stop the cuts, said the council had not assessed local needs properly. Margaret Baily, a children’s nursery manager who led the anti-closure campaign, said: “Today’s judgement means that half of Brent’s libraries remain under threat and has very troubling implications for library closure decisions nationally.”

There has been a highly musical side to the campaign, with Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys all contributing to the costs of trying to save the libraries.

Six of Brent’s 12 libraries are facing closure: Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Preston Road, Neasden, Cricklewood and Tokyngton.

Councillor Ann John, leader of the Council, said: “We are pleased that the judge, having carefully considered all the complaints, has found in the council’s favour on each and every one.

“It means we can push ahead with our exciting plans to improve Brent’s library service and offer a 21st century service for the benefit of all our residents.”

Battle over libraries

A leading human rights lawyer warned earlier this year that anti-cuts campaigners would increasingly use the law to challenge Government spending decisions.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers brought an action against Gloucestershire County Council in a bid to stop the local authority closing 10 of the county’s 38 libraries. The case was heard in September and judgement has been delayed. Until then the libraries can’t be closed.

Mr Shiner told Channel 4 News that the coalition should expect similar lawsuits in the future. He said: “I think the law is a legitimate part of an overall strategy that people are using now to try to stop these cutbacks.

“I am aware of a number of lawyers in this field who are lining up potential challenges to Government cutbacks and how they affect a range of disadvantaged groups.”