Decision to Close Libraries Legal
Campaigners seeking a judicial review against the closure of six libraries in north-west London lost their bid in the High Court yesterday. They argued that Brent Council’s approach to assessing the need for library services and alternative proposals by community groups was in breach of the duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service under section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, that the Council had failed to comply with the public sector equality duties under s. 149 of the Equality Act 2010, and that the consultation process had been inadequate.
The consultation was said to have been unfair because the Council had not provided sufficient information to enable consultees to make submissions as to which libraries should be retained if closures were necessary, and had failed to provide sufficient information to those who wished to advance community-based solutions to keeping libraries open, or the basis on which such alternative proposals would be appraised.
Ouseley J. granted permission to apply for judicial review but dismissed the claims, holding that the Council had discharged the statutory duties under the 1964 Act and the 2010 Act and that there had been “a very extensive consultation programme”. The Judge refused permission to appeal or an interim stay to prevent the libraries being closed pending the outcome of any appeal by campaigners. This is the first of a number of claims challenging library closures. Judgment is also expected shortly in a similar case against Gloucestershire County Council.