Relief for Brent library campaigners as test case adjourned over the Summer

Royal Courts of JusticeJudgement on Brent library campaigners’ judicial review of the decision to close half of the Borough’s libraries has been put on hold over the Summer court vacation, with an indication that it will be handed down by the Court early in October. Campaigners have welcomed the careful consideration being given to the case by the Court and the opportunities children throughout the borough will have to enjoy current library facilities to the full throughout the Summer holiday period. The campaigners are represented by John Halford. He said today:

“This is an important test case and it is clear that the Court is giving it a commensurate degree of thought and attention. Brent has, so far, refrained from taking any significant steps to implement the closure decision under challenge and we understand it will continue to hold back from doing so over the Summer period out of respect for the Court process. Were existing services undermined or imperilled while the case is ongoing, we would, of course, need to take action to protect them such as seeking an injunction. We trust that will not be necessary.”

Notes for editors:

1. All three claimants – in whose name the challenge has been brought – have campaigned to save their local libraries since the proposals were announced. The first, Margaret Bailey, is the coordinator of a nursery for children from minority ethnic backgrounds and low income families and the library is an integral part of the education of these children. The closure of the library will be a loss both to the nursery and the families they are trying to support. The second uses Barham Park library for study to improve herself, as a place where her 6 and 7 year old daughters can also study (including by accessing computers for mandatory homework projects), and to access books for pleasure. The third uses his local library, Preston Road, to seek work (through newspapers and internet access), to read extensively and to maintain social contact with others in the same position.

2. In summary, the legal claim argues the closure decision was unlawful because:

(i) the Council misdirected itself in law as to the means by which it could fulfil its statutory duty under section 7 of the 1964 Museums and Libraries Act by closing its mind to the possibility that some libraries could be retained, partly provided or funded by other sources;

(ii) the decision to close 50% of the existing libraries breached the Council’s duty under section 7 of the 1964 Act, because it failed: (a) to start by assessing the need for library services in its area rationally; and (b) to identify and take into account the welfare consequences for children in need in the borough;

High Court Protest 2(iii) the Council failed to comply with the continuing obligation imposed by section 149 Equality Act 2010 to have ‘due regard’ to the needs to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups in the community; and

(iv) the Council failed to undertake adequate consultation, and acted unfairly by: (a) failing to provide sufficient information to consultees who wished to advance solutions to keeping libraries open involving community groups, so as to enable them to make detailed proposals and (b) failing to provide sufficient information to enable consultees to make specific submissions as to which libraries should be retained if the Council ultimately decided that some closures were necessary.

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