What next for libraries after High Court?

Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners celebrate winning their judicial review at the High Court in London EMN-140717-120412001
Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaigners celebrate winning their judicial review at the High Court in London EMN-140717-120412001

Library users in the Horncastle area are anxiously waiting to see what will happen following last week’s historic High Court judgement.

Lincolnshire County Council was effectively told to ‘think again’ about its proposals to radically change library services.

A judge backed campaigners fighting to stop closures and other cutbacks after ruling the county council’s decision was legally flawed.

The decision could have ramifications for Horncastle and the surrounding area.

In Horncastle, opening hours at the town’s library were cut, leading to fears about job losses.

And the future of Tattershall/Coningsby Library - and Wragby Library - was left hanging in the balance.

In addition, there were also major cuts to the mobile library service - a lifeline for many people living in villages.

The proposals, which have already been implemented, saw the introduction of 15 ‘core’ libraries and creation of 30 community hubs which would be run by volunteers.

The decision was carried out after a lengthy consultation.

The plans were approved as a cost-cutting measure in a bid to save £1.73 million from the council’s budget.

A judge criticised the county council for failing to deal properly with an application by a charitable organisation [Greenwich Leisure Limited] to takeover library services.

Simon Draper, a leading campaigner who brought the court action, said: “We are simply over the moon. As soon as the full judgement was reached and read out, we had a bit group hug and started phoning everybody.

“I want to thank the people of Lincolnshire.”

In a statement Richard Wills, Executive Director at LCC, said: “We are, of course, disappointed with the decision.

“We believe that our proposals would have increased library provision in the county while also making substantial savings.”

Talks between leaders of Lincolnshire County Council and non-profit organisation Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), which tabled an offer to run almost 30 of the county’s libraries, opened on Monday, July 21.

“The judge agreed there was a need to make savings, that our proposals would meet our statutory duties and that we’d carefully considered the impact on all residents.

“However, his decision means we will now need to undertake further consultation and re-examine the proposal from Greenwich Leisure Ltd.”

“Ironically, although we must consider that proposal as a community offer to take over the council’s services under the Localism Act, it could lead to the library service being put out to procurement and outsourced to a commercial organisation.

“We will now address the points raised by the judge and remain open-minded.

“However, we need to take time to consider the best way forward, and will announce our next steps in the near future.”