William Eichler 15 August 2018

Northamptonshire library closures ruled ‘unlawful’

The decision to close 21 council-run libraries in Northamptonshire was made unlawfully, a court has ruled.

Northamptonshire County Council had planned to close 21 out of its 31 libraries as part of an effort to find £70m in savings.

However, the High Court has ruled the authority had failed to consider how it would provide a comprehensive and efficient library service - a statutory requirement - in the wake of closures.

The court also ruled that the council had failed to discharge its duties under the Equality Act when considering the impact the closures would have on vulnerable people.

The local authority also failed to consider the outcome of the consultation that had been carried out.

Two separate legal challenges were brought against the council which, according to council leader Matthew Golby, had paused the closures before the ruling.

Around 13 of the 21 affected libraries house children’s centres, so their closure would affect the county’s children's services.

Cllr Golby said Northamptonshire CC would continue to ‘work closely with community groups, partners and interested parties within the wider context of the council’s budget recovery programme.’

‘The Judge has noted that the county council is continuing these discussions with the community groups,’ he continued.

‘In light of this, she has instructed that the legal parties use their best endeavours to agree all outstanding issues.

‘The county council is committed to finding a way forward that is satisfactory and achievable for all parties.’

Leader of the Labour group, Cllr Bob Scott, said it was ‘inevitable’ that the council would face more judicial reviews.

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