Surrey County Council has responded to our letter requesting that it reconsiders its controversial plans for the library service. It has attempted to defend its position and has indicated that it is happy for the dispute to go to a full High Court Judicial Review.
Their main argument, and the argument they have pushed in the local media, is that SLAM is out of time to lodge proceedings. But we say that this argument is based on an easily verifiable factual error.
The law states that we have 3 months maximum to issue legal proceedings after the final decision on libraries was made. SCC claims that the final decision was made on the 27th September, which means that we had until Boxing Day to act. The minutes of the Cabinet meeting of 1st November state, however:
The Communities Select Committee met on 18 October 2011 to consider a call-in of the Cabinet’s decision of 27 September 2011 in relation to the Public Value Review of the Surrey Library Service. The Select Committee did not decide to refer the matter back to the Cabinet and, in accordance with call-in procedure rules, the decision came into effect from the date of the Select Committee meeting.
Minutes here – Section 146/11 (b)
The decision was, therefore, effective as of 18th October 2011 which gives us until 17th January 2012 to make our claim.
Another of their defences is that “consultation may be unnecessary if relevant views can be taken as being engaged through an alternative mechanism.” The letter then claims that the “alternative mechanisms” in this case were SLAM’s protests, and our “various petitions and questions.” Considering that a good proportion of our protests and questions were over SCC’s lack of consultation, SCC’s defence seems to be that SLAM’s complaints about lack of consultation counts as a legal substitute for proper consultation. We’ll leave you to figure that out.
Suffice to say, nothing in their response justifies withdrawing professional staff from 10 libraries and making them volunteer run and, in fact, there is plenty in their response to suggest that out case is strong. That being the case, our lawyers will be issuing legal proceedings early next week.
Funding – help, please!
Following on from issuing legal proceedings, we will be requesting permission for an injunction preceding a Judicial Review. Our legal costs are already mounting.
We will be receiving legal aid but we still have to make a “Community Contribution” to the costs. The Legal Services Commission will decide how much the Contribution will be but we have been advised it will be between £10,000 and £15,000 – hopefully the former but we have to be prepared for the worst case.
We have made a start and have already raised about £2,500 (give or take a few pounds) but if there is anything you can do to help (suggestions for how we might raise this money or if you know anybody that might be able to help) then please, please let us know.
Or if you could make a personal or group contribution, we would be very grateful indeed.
The good news is that, if we win the case, then it is likely that our Community Contribution will be paid back. If this is the case then we would pay all the money back to people who have donated.
If you can help, then please donate to:
Account Title: SLAM
Account Number 48371668
Sort Code: 30-99-80.
If you are kind enough to do so, please also email to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can return any money should we win.
If you want to pay by cheque then please Contact Us and we will provide the address of our Treasurer.
Many thanks, and sorry for the long blog!