Legal Challenge To Library Closures Started (Updated)

The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act says that those responsible must “promote the improvement of the public library service.” Shutting them isn’t improving them

People over the UK don’t appear to be happy to be forced to give up their libraries.

High CourtToday the Campaign for the Book has launched a legal challenge to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport’s failure to comply with his duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

By coincidence it’s also the day that Isle of Wight Cabinet members lay out their stall and talk publicly about their intentions with the future of the Island’s libraries (tune in to VB for live coverage from 6pm tonight).

Solicitors Leigh Day & Co have today taken the first step towards a Judicial Review on behalf of the Campaign for the Book.

Act: “Promote the improvement of the public library”
The 1964 Act specifies that the Secretary of State must, “superintend and promote the improvement of the public library service provided by local authorities”.

The Act is relevant to local authorities as well, as has been also brought up a number of times by Islanders perturbed by the proposed closures and reduction in the Isle of Wight library provision.

It requires each local authority to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons.”

Alan Gibbons, children’s book author and founder for the the Campaign said:

“I have asked Leigh Day & Co solicitors to pursue the Campaign’s concerns over the possibility of a large scale withdrawal of funds from public libraries. I think it is vital that the Courts examine the legality of the Secretary of State’s approach on the provision of libraries in England and Wales. He has a duty to ensure that councils provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service. I believe that he is failing in that duty.”

“Failing”
Richard Stein and Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co Solicitors, who are acting for Campaign for the Book said:

“The duties under the 1964 Act require the Secretary of State to investigate and compel, if necessary, local authorities, to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service in their area. The current cuts to public libraries across the country demonstrate that he is failing to do this.”

It will be interesting if this gets cited at the Cabinet meeting this evening.

Update 19.Apr.11 Campaign says it’s suspending legal action. Alan Gibbons, founder of the organisation said:
“The Secretary of State appears to have responded to some of our concerns. This is to be welcomed. The test now will be to see how this pans out with regard to each local situation. We will be watching developments keenly to see how he discharges his duties under the 1964 Act.”

Image: swanksalot under CC BY-SA 2.0

3 Comments

  1. DaveQ's comment is rated +15 Vote +1 Vote -1

    1.Mar.2011 4:40pm

    At last, now we need to get behind this challenge, the more pressure the better, the unholy alliance in Westminster has been getting away with murder- no matter what our politicians may say- libraries are an essential part of the community and it is the direct responsibility of our council to supply the service as demanded under the 1964 Act from our council taxes.

    Reply
    • erbo's comment is rated +3 Vote +1 Vote -1

      2.Mar.2011 9:27am

      So, what more do we need to do?

      Reply
      • rosie's comment is rated +4 Vote +1 Vote -1

        2.Mar.2011 11:48am

        i have already been in contact with rosa , over many days, have given her as much info as i can on the closures of our libraries, this is being looked through now. we may have a strong case as the consultation papers were inadequate, and there is discrimination against several groups , any individual can take this up or a group can challenge the council decisions,

        Reply

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