Libraries: Isle of Wight Council “Unlawful” Decision Challenge

Human Rights Lawyers may take IWC to High Court if they don’t withdraw library proposals

This in from law firm Leigh Day & Co Solicitors, in their words. Ed

Richard Stein and Rosa Curling in the Human Rights Department at Leigh Day & Co Solicitors have been instructed by a number of residents on the Isle of Wight to challenge a decision taken by the Isle of Wight Council about the library service on the island.

On 1 March 2011, the Isle of Wight Council decided to reduce the opening hours of many of the public libraries on the island and confirmed that they would only keep five of them open if the local community took them over. We have advised our clients that this decision is unlawful.

1. The decision breaches the Council’s duty under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons” living on the island.

2. When reaching its decision, the Council failed to act in accordance with its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to have due regard to the need to tackle discrimination and promote equality, particularly in relation to women, older people and those with disabilities.

Richard Stein and Rosa Curling of Leigh Day said, “The local authority has a clear duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” public library service. It cannot try to negate this duty by suggesting that local communities will take over many of the local libraries. The vague and speculative proposals on such arrangements fail to ensure that a comprehensive and efficient library service will remain on the island.

“It is clear that the Council has failed to properly consider the impact their decision will have on almost 20% of the current users who will lose their library service should the decision be implemented. This is unlawful and unless the Council agrees to withdraw its decision, our clients have asked us to apply to the High Court to challenge it.”

Image: Jeffrey Beal under CC BY 2.0

Monday, 14th March, 2011 5:05pm



Filed under: Budget Cuts, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News

Print Friendly


Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. What fantastic news! Hopefully, this lousy Council will now be taken to the cleaners! Libraries are a vital part of our local communities. I’m so glad that the barbaric action by the Council to reduce hours of opening, and close other libraries can be challenged legally with a good chance of success and forcing them to give us back our libraries. What a further sad inditement of this Council that their own Legal Dept couldn’t point the potential legal challenge out to the Councillors! Or, perhaps they did and Pugh etc just said, “We don’t care!” and we all know they don’t! They should all resign AT ONCE!

  2. Sorry for the mis-spelling of indictment above! As you can see, I am no legal expert as words like this are not in my daily vocab. Hopefully, the legal challenge is much better than my spelling!

  3. retired hack

    14.Mar.2011 5:36pm

    Latest word in Niton is that library users will be asked for a £10 “voluntary” annual subscription. It may be that the volunteer body (which is not the parish council) believes that this will get round the statutory ban on charging for the loan of books. This seems highly questionable, and is an aspect which the lawyers should look at.

    Niton is, of course, being held up at County Hall as a role model of what the Big Society should be doing. Yuk!

    • Steephill Jack

      14.Mar.2011 6:19pm

      This takes us back to the old subscription libraries, many of which were the precursors of the free public libraries.
      I’m sure the Tories would like to see them again: you want it, you pay for it, nuf said.

      • Even if the country never had a deficit the Tories would still have made severe cuts to public services although for tax cuts. Cutting public spending and services is a deep rooted Tory ideology and every Tory Government since Harold Macmillan’s administration of the late 50’s and early 60’s have followed the same old trodden path.

        Their ideology of greed and looking after the rich has never been a success and sadly always leaves a trail of unhappiness and poverty.

    • we have been asking for people to come forward to join in the campaign to challenge the council, if there are any residents in niton who are not happy with the way their library will be run, such as they still want a qualified librarian or the lack of financial support in the future ect , what ever your reasons , please contact the solicitors, we still need one person to represent niton.

      • library fan

        14.Mar.2011 11:22pm

        Come on Niton library users! More people are needed to join in the action. Please contact Leigh Day & Co (Or Dave Q who has worked very hard on this!) It really is wrong that people are being denied a comprehensive library service ….. with Steve Beynon declaring that people are “willing volunteers” and now we hear that people are being asked to make “voluntary” £10 donations, this is a complete abdication of the IoW council’s responsibilty. We have ALL paid for a public library service once already in our council taxes.

  4. Perhaps one day this council will learn that they can not keep re-writing the law to suit themselves.

  5. This is excellent news! Pugh and his cronies need to wake up to the fact that the people of this Island are getting absolutely fed up with being bullied by this useless Tory Council. Let’s hope the challenge will succeed and be another nail in their coffin.

    I wonder if there is any similar laws to this about the provision of public transport to rural areas? The White Bus is going to be cut by these scoundrels which could leave many residents without a bus service at all. Havenstreet is one example. Yet again it will be the older folk, disabled and vulnerable that will be hit the worse.

    • Well said Asi! I’m sure that the challenge about equality of access must be a good one under the Anti-Discrimmination laws of the land. Undoubtedly the ConDems would like to repeal all equality legislation, and ride rough-shod over the poorest and weakest in our communities. But, we ain’t gonna let ’em are we? There’s going to be fantastic Island representation at the National March on 26/3! We will show them and all the pathetic little Pughs up and down this land, that it is we, the people, who have the power, when the chips are down!

    • Hi Asite 2c, the House of Commons Library has a document SN/BT 365, I have it as a pdf, it gives a lot of info details of the relevant acts re rural public transport. My email has appeared on my earlier comments, email me and I’ll send it to you.

      • Dave. Thanks for your advice. I’m going to try and find as much information possible about the legality of cutting public transport to rural areas. Hopefully there is somebody out there that could offer some advice and inform the VB whether these draconian cuts to public transport are breaking an act of parliament.

        This Government are willing to spend an obsene amount renewing the trident missile system although are unwilling to invest in a well run, cheap fairs UK public transport system. It makes me feel sick.

        • Bus Driver

          15.Mar.2011 12:45am

          I think you are about 25 years too late. Public transport was privatised way back in 1986 by the then conservative govenment so they would no longer be a burden on the tax payer. Apart from subsidised fares, bus companies have to make their own income and can basically charge what fares they like and operate routes which are most proffitable. Southern Vectis is living proof of this.

          • I understand the 1986 act regarding the ruin of public transport although there might something within the act that could be challenged. We didn’t know about the law regarding library provision until it was revealed on VB. Every avenue must be explored.

  6. montana sliver

    14.Mar.2011 7:21pm

    Doesn’t a Councils Chief Executive officer normally have a law degree in order to avoid Council policy being open to legal challenge?

    Ambulances are flying on the Island, it’ll be pigs next.

    • retired hack

      14.Mar.2011 9:24pm

      No, Pugh and Beynon have a legal services department, exempted from any thought of being shared with a neighbouring authority, whose job it is to tell them what they might be able to get away with. A legal challenge to what they’re doing certainly should go ahead if there are grounds, but we can look forward to a lot more council funds being spent on defending the indefensible.

      • Steephill Jack

        14.Mar.2011 10:38pm

        Aye, there’s the rub. If we take out legal action against the County Council and they have to make a defence, then we have to pay for it (with more cuts) and that might cost as much as the closed libraries would have cost.
        Nevertheless, I do think that we have to take up the legal challenge as the last resort, but the government will pull the plug on all this fairly soon and remove the statutory obligation to provide libraries and that will be the end of them.

  7. Thank you for the supportive comments, there are currently three of us all on legal aid, it would help if anyone else who qualifies for legal air would join us. We are the Island 3 musketeers, it would be nice if we couldd become the magnificent seven! Again thanks to all.

    • Well, I am not entitled to Legal Aid, but I support quite a few disabled/elderly folk who would be! They are all library users and use public transport, they are very worried for their future and feel that they will become totally isolated at this rate!

      Where do I support them to go regarding legal advice? “Magnificent 7 could become Triumphant 20”!!

  8. Sailor Sam

    14.Mar.2011 7:34pm

    Pity there isn’t as much enthusiasm to save the TIC’s. After all, they are in the front line of our main industry which is tourism.

    • If there were a legal requirement for the council to supply TICs and Public toilets, I would be happy take legal action over those as well. This council must be stopped they are determined to cut as many public services as they can whilst protecting their own over inflated incomes (and egos). If we can force an about turn on the libraries, its posible, if enough pressure is brought to bear, we might save the TICs as well. Don’t just comment- join us, help fight this totally wrong policy.

  9. montana sliver

    14.Mar.2011 11:19pm

    Whereas public toilets provision is indiscretionary in the case of Cllr David Whittaker

  10. I’d be interested to see how far this challenge goes. What’s comprehensive? Please will somebody define it? Any book, delivered to your door sounds pretty comprehensive to me. Leigh Day and Co have everything to gain from its clients and nothing to lose, so of course they say you have a case. Again, please define comprehensive?

  11. library fan

    14.Mar.2011 11:36pm

    I am sure that everyone reading this knows that in the UK there is a law which requires local councils to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service for all people who wish to make use thereof. It is the upholding of that 1964 Libraries and Museums Act which is the basis of all the campaigns to save libraries.

    Now we have discovered a secret move by state officials to remove the burden of the duty placed on councils by including the main requirements of the Act in a whole list of possible changes to local government requirements. Quite easily the whole legal foundation of the public library service could be removed without the public or parliament realising that the law had quietly and secretly been changed. To find out more about this move to change the law without any public debate click on this link.
    Please complete the web form asking for comments on this site and write to Andrew Turner MP!

    • Good work ‘library fan’, sadly this is all a reflection of a bigger move by small gangs of ‘wreckers’ with the flthy lucre & power to carry it out. Look at America where peoples rights are being abolished, try Michigan & Wisconsan for example. The library is a thorn in the ConDem flesh. Sadly our beloved post offices are also facing extinction – soon the only place to put your money will be with untrustworthy banks & millionaires raking the profits, we’ll miss our trusty posties & post offices. Erosion of peoples hard won rights are happening all over we musn’t let the ConDems get away with the lie about the deficit. Lets make our councillors (who voted for this budget)accountable for whats happening locally i.e. wasting public money having to take them to court over library cuts and make our MP accountable for whats happening nationally, wrecking public services.

      • Excellent comment Lilly!

        The generation of people that laid down their lives for our precious freedoms in World World 2 must be turning in their graves. It is also an absolute disgrace that those still alive who fought and lived through the war are being made to suffer the most from these mean and viscous cuts to public services.

        The elderly generation still alive today who lived through the war are the people that depend on public services such as buses, libraries public toilets, care in the community etc the most. This Con/Dem Government and Tory IOW Council are like a bunch of bullies kicking them in the teeth.

        What heartless people many of these politicians and decision makers have become in this age of greed and lust for wealth and power.

  12. Under 50-year-old laws, local councils currently have a legal obligation to provide comprehensive library services.

    Depends of ones definition of “comprehensive”, I would have thought the ones that have remained open will satisfy those requirements.

    Ministers are currently reviewing this law with a view to it possibly being scrapped.

  13. So if the council has to go court to defend their decision on Library cut backs, thereby using our money. Maybe they would be more careful if the individuals who voted for such action had to put their hands into their own pocket to defend such action. would this cause them to stop and think?

    • Only if they lose. If they win then it is those bring the action that have wasted our money.

      • Seems a bit defeatist Ron, how would you have felt if your father or grandfather had refused to fight Hitler because he thought we might lose?

      • this is a decision by the majority of islanders, if we do nothing then in the next 12 months the whole thing starts up again , budget cuts from where next.. its ok for those to make statements when they are not being affected.. what about the hospital staff, police, fire brigade ,teachers , council workers, and of course librarians, closure of schools, cuts to care, where is anyone not included in this and can say im alright jack,,,, this is only the first step in standing up for our rights, maybe those who are not happy with those of us who are trying to look after our own ,,,complain to steve beynon the chief executive who is earning nearly £150,000 a year, ask him for a pay cut, or better still he could volunteer his services like they used to in council no one was paid ,which is what the parish councillors do , and of course its the parish councillors who are being told to take on all this extra work , for no pay, so if they are expected to so can he.

  14. Hi folks, had a visit from Chris Coneybeare at lunchtime- should be a piece on BBC South Today this evening. As he has spoken to the council as well we may get their first reaction to our challenge!

    • Great news Dave! It will be interesting to see their reaction. I expect they’ll use spin and say something like “the council will continue providing a comprehensive system even after savings have been made”.

    • well done dave on south today.. the reply from council was that money would have to come from somewhere if the libraries were to be saved, i have too many suggestions to mention, but we can start with steve beynon his pay is £150.000 a year, stop the council spending 4 million on their own offices , ect ect , any one else got any ideas ,

  15. Sad to infer from your comments Ron that you seem to think that just because a law is 50 years old, it is obselete. It could have been enacted with an ever changing world in mind. By 1964 there had been riots on the beaches, gang fights, nationalist uprisings across the world, mass economic migration from & to the UK, swinging times, great train robberies, nuclear threats, assassinated presidents etc. – oh and of course the genius that is Dr. Strangelove.

    Moreover, would you want to get rid of other great laws? How about the 2nd Archery Act 1363 requiring all men to practice archery on Sunday and holidays, and banning participation in any other sport.

    I believe these following acts/requirement have never been repealed either

    It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
    In the UK, a man who feels compelled to urinate in public can do so only if he aims for his rear wheel and keeps his right hand on his vehicle.
    In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants – even, if she so requests, in a policeman’s helmet.
    It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside down.
    Royal Navy ships that enter the Port of London must provide a barrel of rum to the Constable of the Tower of London.
    In Lancashire, no person is permitted after being asked to stop by a constable on the seashore to incite a dog to bark.
    In London, Freemen are allowed to take a flock of sheep across London Bridge without being charged a toll; they are also allowed to drive geese down Cheapside.
    In Chester, Welshmen are banned from entering the city before sunrise and from staying after sunset.
    In the city of York, it is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow

    • Dear Lido, sorry but I don’t infer 50 year old laws are outdated etc. What I am asking is for somebody to define ‘comprehensive’. Nobody seems able to do so. Without a definition, there is no case. Surely that must be the basis of a case alledging that the service fails to be comprehensive.

      • Steephill Jack

        15.Mar.2011 8:44pm

        Ron – the definition is not in the Act, it will have been pinned down in the case law which followed the Act.
        There is a book (not available electronically as far as I am aware) called ‘Words and phrases legally defined’. It lists definitions from legislation and case law within the Commonwealth.
        Vol 1 covers A-K and costs £509.25 for the 4th ed. 2010.
        Lawyers use this so, if you know a law firm you could ask to take a look and report back on ‘comprehensive’. I just checked to see if the County Library has a copy but it doesn’t.

  16. montana sliver

    15.Mar.2011 4:29pm

    @lido one more for your list:
    Its permissible for council leaders on the Isle of Wight to publicly verbally abuse women in car parks if he so wishes

  17. montana sliver

    15.Mar.2011 6:00pm

    @Loopy Loo but only because he joined the Tories in block voting through their cuts even though the Tories kicked him out for pervery.

    Does anyone know if he is on the sex offenders register?

  18. Ron, my post was clearly not understood. Specific laws written ‘of their time’ become obsolete & even appear silly when seen from the modern point of view. Whereas laws written with sufficient scope for interpretation can survive the cultural and moral changes that all vibrant societies experience.

    Strangelove was used as an an ironic device – within the film the common enemy of society was a computer ‘doomsday device’ (a theme Kubrick revisited in 2001 Space Odyssey, HAL being a schoolboy-coded reference to IBM)

    It is therefore my contention & I suspect most others too, that the interpretation of a ‘comprehensive’ library service is that it is free & accessible at the point use. Taxation pays for the library service, its infrastructure and stock and are thus free for the community to use. Computerised services are not, individuals pay for their ISPs, hardware, software and stuff that is downloaded or purchased, ergo not comprehensive.

    The cultural signposts were to show that there is nothing new going on now in the world today, that wasn’t experienced previously.

    I could have used Goldfinger, also 1964, complete with a car with sat nav, lasers, airborne chemical warfare, Asian nuclear devices etc. But who would have taken that reference seriously? Especially the scene where 007 seduces Pussy Galore, I mean some could misinterpret what I meant & apply it to local individuals.

  19. Let’s not forget tho – if courts do end up getting involved, and I sincerely hope they don’t..

    Who do you think will pay the bill? yes us!
    Once again a small amount will be added to the Council Tax will to pay for these ‘running costs’

    Move tourist information centers into libraries – open up the toilets to the public.. 3 things in one swoop, rather than close it all down.

Add comment