Library campaigners are celebrating following the outcome of a judicial review, which has ruled that the decision to close 21 libraries in Northamptonshire was taken unlawfully by Northamptonshire County Council.
The judgement was handed down yesterday (Tuesday 14th August) by HHJ Worster for the trial judge Mrs Justice Yip DBE at Birmingham High Court.
South-Wales law firm Watkins & Gunn represented the campaign to save 20 of the 21 libraries, which were earmarked for closure in February this year on behalf of their client, Mr Connolly, with support from campaign group, the 21 Group Libraries Network.
The announcement that 21 of the 36 libraries run by Northamptonshire County Council were to close would have been one of the biggest cull of libraries to ever be seen in the UK by a Local Authority. Thirteen of the libraries under threat also house vital children’s services for the people of Northamptonshire.
Initially the council’s favoured option was to allow communities to run their own libraries, with support from the council. However, the extent of the financial crisis coming to light in Northamptonshire in February, and warnings from the councils auditors, the council decided to go forward with the complete closure of 21 libraries, leaving most communities unable to sustain their library provision.
As part of their case, Watkins & Gunn argued that the council failed to consider their duty to provide libraries following their change of mind from the original preferred option, and that they also failed to take in to account the impact the closures would have on the provision of children’s services, which were housed in many of the affected libraries.
Michael Imperato, one of Wales’ leading experts in administrative and public law and partner at South Wales law firm Watkins & Gunn said:
“We are pleased that the judicial review into the closure of 21 libraries has deemed that Northamptonshire County Council did not follow due process in the decision to close the libraries under threat.“Councils have a difficult job in allocating funding to the many services they provide, but we argued that they must still properly balance and weigh up the consequences of closing important services such as libraries according to the law.”
Graham Croucher, Chairman, St James Residents Association & Friends of St James Library, said:
“We welcome this judgement from Justice Yip which is a vindication for the overwhelming majority of the 6000 people who responded to the consultation.”