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.