Archive for February, 2012

We are only a few weeks away from the Judicial Review into Surrey County Council’s decision to dispose of its responsibility to run 10 libraries across Surrey. The decision will remove professional staff from the libraries, remove computer systems linking the libraries to the central library system, and forces volunteers to take legal responsibility for running the libraries – a decision over which neither local residents nor library users were consulted.

The Courts have found in library users’ favour thus far, rejecting SCC’s many technical attempts to avoid scrutiny, issuing an Injunction in quick time, and awarding an expedited Judicial Review, due to take place on the 19th and 20th March 2012.

The Legal Services Commission has granted the claimants legal aid but, due to the LSC having decided that the case is in the broad public interest and that a very large number of people stand to gain should the claim succeed, the LSC have insisted that the community makes a contribution to the legal costs in the region of £18,000.

Due to the High Court acting so quickly over the issue, we have very little time in which to raise the “Community Contribution” – just a few weeks!

So we are now making this unashamed appeal for you to contribute to the “fighting fund”. We believe libraries and librarians are worth fighting for and have been working extremely hard to protect them and improve them. But we do need your help. It is wonderful and encouraging to have such high profile celebrity supporters such as Stephen Fry, Brian Blessed and Sue Perkins, but as you can see from our fundraising thermometer on the right of this page, we still need everybody’s help, including you!

There are three ways you can donate:

1. Make an online transfer from your bank account to the SLAM bank account at LloydsTSB Account 48371668 Sort Code 30-99-80. Please also send an email to slamtreasurer12@gmail.com with your name , address and amount of donation. This will enable us to return any surplus donations.

2. If you wish to pay by cheque, please make it payable to “SLAM” and post with your contact details to SLAM Treasurer, 10 Coombe Way, Byfleet, West Byfleet, surrey KT14 7DP.

3. To pay by debit card, credit card or paypal, click on the yellow Donate button on the right and follow the instructions.

If the High Court finds in the claimants favour, and costs are awarded, then we will return all donations.

Thank you for reading and for your help. Please ask your friends and neighbours to help too! Pass the message on!


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SLAM has received a letter from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), giving notification that the Department is monitoring Surrey County Council’s library “developments” and is “awaiting the Court’s determination of the legal challenge” before deciding whether to step in and take action.

The letter from the DCMS, which places further pressure on the Council, was sent in response to a request by SLAM asking for the Minister for Culture (and superintendent of the library service), Ed Vaizey, to make a formal intervention over SCC’s controversial library plans.

SLAM requested the intervention after raising concerns that SCC was not fulfilling its statutory duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act, and especially its duty to “provide a comprehensive and efficient” library service.

SLAM noted the last time the Minister intervened was in setting up an investigation into Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s plans for its libraries. The resulting report said that the Council had “failed to take account of local needs in designing their library service.”

SLAM further noted DCMS’s recent guidance in relation to the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act, which stated that, “the following matter[s] may be relevant to any consideration of intervention by the Secretary of State:

  • Any consultation process undertaken in the lead up to proposed library changes and the Authority’s response to that consultation.”

SLAM surmised, in its request to Ed Vaizey, that the Department expected Councils to assess local needs, and that a consultation of library users (and presumably local residents) was an appropriate means of assessing these needs when restructuring the library service.

SLAM pointed out that SCC had not properly assessed local needs and had not consulted with library users or local residents, and it had, therefore, contravened the Department’s own guidance of what would be required to meet the the requirements of the 1964 Act.

SLAM will continue to communicate with the DCMS during this “monitoring” period.

It is difficult to understand how SCC determined what residents need from their local library without asking them!


Please keep donating whatever you can afford. We have included a “thermometer” on the site to show how we’re getting on. We really need your help!

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Stephen Fry has come out in support of SLAM and its campaign to stop 10 libraries in Surrey being run solely by volunteers.

SLAM contacted Mr Fry’s office, explaining SCC’s library plans, the campaign against them and the impending Judicial Review. SLAM further explained that up to £18,000 needed to be raised within a few weeks to help pay the legal costs.

Stephen Fry’s office told SLAM that he was working on The Hobbit, which is being filmed in New Zealand, and that he didn’t have very much time at the moment, but that they would pass on all the information, and Stephen could then peruse and decide.

SLAM was therefore surprised and delighted when Mr Fry posted the following Tweet this morning to his nearly 4 million followers within 12 hours of the request being made:

Do help @surrey_slam fight the good fight for libraries and librarians. Give the price of a book: a fine cause http://t.co/BTBet2wv
17/02/2012 08:42

This is, of course, wonderful news for us and would ask that you follow Stephen’s sage advice in donating, if you can. Please use the button on the right of this page to donate or click on the “Legal Action and Fundraising” tab for alternative ways to donate.

Stephen Fry now joins local resident, Brian Blessed, and former Surrey resident, Sue Perkins in getting behind SLAM’s campaign to protect and improve Surrey libraries.

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SLAM is an open organisation and is always happy to discuss issues surrounding the provision of a comprehensive library service. We therefore welcome two recent articles that have appeared in local newspapers over the past week and would like to contribute to this debate.

The articles are posted below:


The Judicial Review is being taken by two individuals who are supported by SLAM. Both articles report criticism that the Judicial Review was taken too late. Beryl Marlow, ex-Conservative Cllr, said, for instance: “I’m really very angry at the moment that at this late stage they have chosen to go to the courts. They have had since February.” The other article had very similar wording.

We greatly appreciate and understand people who have felt forced to volunteer to stop their library from closing, but the view stated above has previously been dealt with by  the High Court. Judge Thornton QC considered this point on 3rd February, commenting that if the request (for Judicial Review) had been made earlier than it had, then it would certainly have been dismissed as being “premature”. The Judge was satisfied that the claim had been made promptly and within three months of the relevant, challengeable decision.

Both articles then talk about the benefits of volunteering and how SLAM is anti-volunteers. The truth is that SLAM has always been pro-volunteers. Indeed, most SLAM supporters are library volunteers, but they want to support SCC by volunteering alongside paid staff, not in place of, and certainly do not want to take legal responsibility for the running of their libraries, an unusual demand to make of an unpaid volunteer.

Librarians respected and “much loved”

It is SLAM’s understanding, having consulted with many residents in the affected communities, that the paid library staff were greatly respected for their skill, knowledge and experience, very much appreciated, and that they were “much loved”. If the Judicial Review is successful, and paid staff are brought back into the libraries, we would hope that the volunteers that have been recruited would agree to work alongside the paid staff, extending opening hours, providing additional services and the like.

We think that this would be a very good model to promote and improve the affected libraries and ensure they are sustainable into the future. We would urge SCC to consider this suggestion very seriously, maintaining the Council’s statutory duty for these libraries, and would hope that most volunteers would agree with this outcome.

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SLAM is hosting an open meeting as follows:

SLAM Open Meeting
8pm, Tuesday 7th February 2012
St Mary’s Community Centre
Stream Close
KT14  7LZ

All welcome. Please bring friends, ideas, and a commitment to libraries, librarians and the very many benefits they provide us all!


SLAM is a group of library volunteers, library users and library supporters. We are supporting the Claimant, Lucy, in her battle to protect 10 community libraries in Surrey and we must therefore raise the “community contribution” to the costs of the case that the Legal Services Commission will require. We have set up a new tab on this website, “Legal Action and Fundraising”, to provide updates on the legal case and to collect donations to the “fighting fund”. If you can help in any way, please let us know, or make a donation if you can possibly afford to. Many thanks!

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The Royal Courts of Justice in London has ordered that Surrey County Council’s library plans will be subject to a Judicial Review. In a four and a half hour hearing on Friday, Judge Thornton QC concluded that the case against SCC had sufficient prospects of success to warrant the full scrutiny of the High Court.

During the lengthy hearing, SCC raised a succession of technical points to avoid their plans being scrutinised, including: striking out the claimant, Lucy Williams; stopping a second claimant, Nick Dorrington, from being added; and halting the claim altogether because SCC argued the proceedings were issued “out of time”. But Judge Thornton dismissed each one of the Council’s attempts.

The Judge also turned down SCC’s application to revoke the Injunction placed upon them to stop progressing with CPLs, but did accept special pleading from the Council to exempt Byfleet library. The Judge, however, did not order SCC to open Byfleet library as a CPL and, should the Council do so, it will be in the full knowledge that the library may well be returned to full staffing and full systems capability in just a few weeks, should the Judicial Review order it. Local residents will decide whether opening Byfleet as a CPL now, rather than pause just a few short weeks so they can proceed with certainty, is good administration.

We are very pleased with yesterday’s outcome and were heartened by the Judge’s comments that SLAM has shown a considerable commitment and dedication to the library service, and  has shown significant resilience in coping with the hard work and stress necessary to bring to the Court’s attention this “potential abuse of power” by Surrey County Council.

This moment has been a long time coming. Surrey County Council has not consulted with library users, has not assessed the impacts of Community Partnered Libraries on the affected communities, and has avoided scrutiny of its plans at every turn. Now, finally, the Council’s plans will be held up to the scrutiny they have lacked throughout. It’s just a shame it’s taken an appeal to the High Court to achieve this.

Judge Thornton has requested that the Judicial Review take place in the week beginning 20th February.


Please, please help if you can. It has taken considerable effort to get to this stage but we need help in paying the “Community Contribution” towards the legal costs. We will probably find out next week the exact level of Contribution but it is likely to be in the region of £15,000. We are very grateful to people who have already donated and helped in raising approx £3,000 so far. Any help you can give will be gratefully received. Please see out fundraising tab.

Thank you

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Just a very quick blog to let you know that the hearing to decide whether the injunction is to be overturned has been laid over until tomorrow afternoon. In short, our hearing was last on the Court’s list and the Court ran out of time.

Before time ran out, some consideration was given to whether all the issues could be rolled up into one permission hearing tomorrow – that at is to say, the Judge may decide tomorrow whether to grant permission for a Judicial Review. That, though, is to be decided tomorrow once the Judge has given the matter consideration overnight.

And that’s it for now. Sorry we couldn’t give you any more definitive information. More news after tomorrow.

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