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

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54 Comments on "Libraries: Isle of Wight Council “Unlawful” Decision Challenge"

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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… Read more »

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!

retired hack
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… Read more »
Steephill Jack

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… Read more »
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… Read more »
library fan
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,… Read more »
John R

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


Very unlikely as they are short of brain cells and the one’s they have left are struggling to survive.

Asite 2c
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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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… Read more »
Bus Driver
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… Read more »

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.

montana sliver

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
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… Read more »
Steephill Jack
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… Read more »

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”!!


Please contact our solicitor, Rosa Curling at

[email protected]
all it will entail is the completion of a form that will be sent to anyone wanting to join us.
Many thanks
Dave, Serena & Stewart

Sailor Sam

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… Read more »

I think the provision of public toilets might be discretionary.


Whittaker has given Pugh a helping hand regarding the closure of public toilets. He said in the chamber they could be converted to cottages.

montana sliver

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


Watch out, Whittaker is about.

Asite 2c

If Whittaker enjoys hanging about public toilets, why did he vote for their closure? He should be out there fighting and campaining to keep them open.


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?


Very defensive Ron?

I hate to pour water on anybody’s fire but some of you here are already assuming that the Courts will find against the Council. Do you not think it might be a good idea to wait for the judgement? Also do we know for a fact that the Council did not take legal advice before presenting the Library Closure plan or are we guilty of making an… Read more »

Not really Jenny. Just hate to see people led on.


But surely you’re a Tory….so should be used to that

Steephill Jack

There have been cases proven against councils in the past using the Public Libraries Act so “comprehensive and effective” must have been defined in those cases and will be drawn on again.

library fan
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
Asite 2c
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… Read more »

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.


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… Read more »

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 ,

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,… Read more »

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
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… Read more »
montana sliver

@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


Yet another one- Its permissible for local councils, although they may be gone in two years , to saddle their electorate with a bill for £11 million a year for the next 25 years


And yet another. Council leaders found with their trousers down committing disgusting acts in public toilets are permitted and welcome to sit on scrutiny committees.

montana sliver

@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?

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… Read more »
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… Read more »