Warning as court stops library cuts

 

Campaigners were celebrating today after winning a High Court battle to block cuts to library services.

But they were warned by a QC that they may have scored an "own goal" and could now face even more draconian cuts when the cases go back for reconsideration.

A judge in London quashed restructuring plans which had been proposed by Somerset County Council and Gloucestershire County Council in an attempt to make cash savings.

It is the third time in a few days that the High Court has struck down controversial bids by financially-squeezed councils to cut costs.

Each time judges have ruled the councils made fatal legal errors and sent them back to the drawing board.

Judge McKenna, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, ruled Somerset and Gloucestershire had failed to comply with "public sector equality duties" owed to vulnerable social groups, including single mothers, children, elderly and the disabled.

The judge declared the decisions were "not merely unlawful decisions, but in substance 'bad government', and it is important to the rule of law to give due respect to these issues of equality".

The ruling means that Gloucestershire council must reconsider its plans to withdraw funding from 10 of its 38 libraries and the withdrawal of its mobile library service.

Somerset must reconsider its plans to end funding for 11 of its 34 static libraries and four of the six mobile libraries already off the road.

James Goudie QC, appearing for the councils, warned the library campaigners that the victory could turn out to be an "own goal" - and even more "draconian" reductions in library services could be introduced.

He said that, when the local authorities came to reconsider their decisions, it was at least "highly likely" they would make the same decisions again.

He said: "They might actually be more draconian from the point of view of those challenging libraries' closures than the decisions made months ago.

"The goal they may have scored (today) may turn out to be an own goal.

"There is no reason to suppose they are are going to practically benefit, given that the financial constraints have obviously not eased."

Campaigners had warned of the disproportionate effect that the cuts would have on disadvantaged groups.

Daniel Carey, of Public Interest Lawyers, said after the decision was announced: "Today's High Court ruling sends a clear message not only to Gloucestershire and Somerset, but to every council in the country that catering for the needs of the vulnerable must be at the heart of any decision to cut important services such as libraries.

"The 'big society' cannot be relied upon to justify disenfranchising vulnerable individuals from the services on which they rely."

The councils were refused permission to appeal but they can apply directly to the Court of Appeal in a bid to take the case further.

The ruling came as campaigners in Brent, north west London, who are fighting to save six "treasured" libraries, await an appeal court decision in their case.

Last Friday a judge ruled Isle of Wight Council's plans to cut social care were unlawful, and two days earlier another judge struck down Sefton Council's plans to freeze fees for local residential care homes.

PA

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor