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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor