This in from the Friends Of The IW Library Service, in their own words – Ed
It is with much regret that we have to inform you that we were defeated in our application for a Judicial Review.
We are obviously very disappointed at the outcome of yesterday’s hearing. His Honour Judge Pearl was sympathetic but he refused to accept that the LSC delays had caused us to be 13 days out of time. His later comments saying that even if he gave us the time extension he would still have refused our JR were not quoted in full.
Equality Impact Assessments
What none of the comments have said is that on the aspect of the Equality Impact Assessments he felt that we had a very valid point.
The Judge applied the law as he saw it, and one should assume that a High Court Judge knows the law better than us mere mortals. He did comment that he felt the council had listened to the views of those who replied to the consultation because they had decided to save 4 of the original 9 that were earmarked for closure.
(Note the IWC QC stated that the 4 libraries were saved from closure in order to comply with Section 7 of the 194 Act – he specifically said “Saved” and not “Saved for the foreseeable future”. That should mean that Cowes, Sandown, Ventnor and Freshwater should be safe when the council next look for services to cut).
We were very surprised when we arrived at court to see that the IW Council who had claimed that they had no case to answer had in fact, employed the services of one of the top QCs in the country, plus a second barrister and a lawyer, we in turn had one barrister being funded by very limited means from legal aid. Not exactly a level playing field.
However we feel we must comment that the efforts made by the solicitors of Leigh Day and Co and the extremely impressive performance by our barrister, who spent well over an hour pleading our case, were brilliant. We must add that much of the work done by the solicitors was not charged for, particularly during the period when legal aid was cancelled.
Thanks for the support
We would like to thank all those who have supported us over these past months and for all the work done by those who sent us letters, emails, and submissions. Also the statements from residents submitted as evidence that the councils proposals were totally flawed. Unfortunately much of your efforts may never be heard in open court, however, all the original material is still with the DCMS and if enough of the other cases are successful, the Secretary of State may still be forced to intervene. If this is the case, you will all be the first to know.
The community groups, in particular Brighstone and Bembridge have been 100% behind us, having stated the same belief that drives us – libraries should be run by the IW Council with a paid member of staff for each library, supplemented by volunteers.
Despite adverse comments made in the media, we are not and never have been anti-volunteer and congratulate those who are prepared to take on the job and its associated onerous commitments.
As result of the refusal of a judicial review there will be more responsibility and financial burden than was necessary placed upon local residents who have formed the steering groups. However, in the words of the council “they do not seek to rely on communities to run the libraries” they have never fully explained what the other alternative (closure) does to their statutory duty under the 1964 Act.
We were also saddened by the fact that before we had even got back to the Island, Cllr Abrahams was gloating, making statements that he was “delighted with the outcome” showing no thoughts for those loyal and dedicated library staff who, in some cases had given many years of service to the profession, whom he had forced to take totally unnecessary redundancy. Cllr Abrahams along with his other Tory friends in County Hall should hang their heads in shame.
We are very sad and sorry for failing all of you who have pinned your hopes on us. We have let you down and apologise for that.
Possible further action
Just as a final comment there are two things we are contemplating, the first is a formal complaint against the LSC for their bungled handling of our legal aid, the second is the possibility of taking the matter to appeal which we have been told is a genuine possibility if we can raise funding!
Grateful thanks to all
Dave, Serena & Heidi
Friends of the IW Library Service