Campaigners against cuts to Lincolnshire’s libraries are gearing up for a date in the High Court which will see the controversial decision challenged.
A judicial review begins at the High Court at 10.30am tomorrow into the cuts - which impacted on libraries in Donington, Kirton and Coningsby among 32 static libraries and axed more than 100 staff.
Ten members of the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign will be attending the hearing and say the result of the case could prove key for similar groups throughout the country.
Lincoln resident Simon Draper is challenging the council’s decision on four grounds as follows:
* Lincolnshire County council will no longer be providing a comprehensive and efficient library service as required by section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act,
* the consultation process was unlawful on the grounds that the outcome of consultation had been pre-determined and the basis of the information given for it was misleading,
* the council failed to give proper consideration to the needs of vulnerable people including the elderly, children and disabled people as required under the Equalities Act,
* the council did not give sufficient consideration to the bid from Greenwich Leisure to run the library service as required under the Localism Act.
Campaign spokesman John Hough said: “This Judicial Review is important not only for Lincolnshire but for the public library service across the country.
“If any council can take upon itself the power to decide what a statutory library service is, there will be no protection for public libraries in the future.
“We believe that Lincolnshire County Council has tried to find a way round the Libraries and Museums Act so as to provide the minimum level of publicly professionally run libraries it can get away with.
“It ignored the overwhelming public opposition to its proposals to demolish and destroy the important and highly valued service that it had provided.”
The campaign group feels the council is sitting on money in its reserves that ought to have been spent on the libraries.
Campaigner Julie Harrison, former head teacher, commented: “To force 30 libraries into volunteer hands, with many people saying they feel forced to volunteer. To sack over 100 staff. To remove over 100 of mobile stops. It’s a betrayal of Lincolnshire people on every level.
“It’s abusing people’s good will and their community spirit. And it’s putting an essential public service on very rocky ground, as the withdrawal of all 12 volunteers at Alford library only last week has proven.
“This plan cannot go ahead if a comprehensive, professional led, library service is to be maintained for Lincolnshire as a whole.
“The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act states ‘It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof’.
“The key phrase here for me is ‘all persons’, not those with cars or those who can walk to the big central library: all people.
“The support we have received so far has been tremendous and it would be great to return next week with positive news for the huge number of people who are regular library users and those dependent on their libraries.”
The council had said the cuts had to be made and would save £2 million.
Campaigners will report on key developments from the hearing through social media with the hashtag #LibraryJudicialReview.
The group’s Twitter account can be found at @SaveLincsLibraries and their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/savelincslibraries/