A High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge against plans for a new-look Lincolnshire library service on all grounds.
In February, Lincolnshire County Council’s executive approved proposals for a new-look service in light of changes in the way libraries are used and the authority’s substantially reduced budget.
This move was challenged by campaigners, Save Lincs Libraries, which won a previous judicial review and forced the county council to reassess its original plans for the service.
However, the High Court has now ruled that the council’s latest decision on how to change library provision in the county was taken in a lawful manner.
Coun Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “We’re delighted with the judge’s decision.
“However, it’s disappointing that at least £350,000 has had to be wasted defending plans that are clearly best for taxpayers, best for library users and best for local communities.
“The delays caused by the legal action have also led to Lincolnshire Co-op withdrawing its bid for Boultham Library, meaning this site is now likely to close.
“Hopefully, the campaigners will now see their actions are only having a negative effect on services, and they are doing anything but save Lincolnshire libraries.
“Now we have cleared this hurdle, we can concentrate on putting the new-look service in place – something that will ensure the future of local libraries.
“We’re working closely with local groups to get the new community hubs up-and-running, and have a few that are ready to go-live in the next few weeks,
“The rest will then follow over the summer months in a phased approach. Everything should be in place by the end of September.
“I’m sure these new facilities will be of real benefit to their local community.”
Under the plans, the council will continue to provide 15 major libraries, along with online services and specialist support for those unable to reach their nearest library because of, for instance, disability, age or ill health.
These will be complemented by around 30 community hubs, including library services, developed in partnership with local community groups. Not only will these groups receive ongoing professional support, they will also be given over £5,000 per year towards their running costs and access to a one-off grant of up to £15,000 for changes to buildings or equipment.
In addition, the authority is undertaking a competitive procurement to seek an external organisation to potentially deliver library services on its behalf, including the support for the community hubs. This follows an approach by Greenwich Leisure Limited, a not-for-profit organisation interested in running local libraries.
Because of the work involved in a competitive procurement, it is likely to take until the end of 2015 before a final decision is reached on who will run the service.