The long wait for Surrey County Council’s library plans to be held up to scrutiny is coming to an end. The campaign to halt the Council’s controversial plans to force “volunteers” to take over statutory library service provision in 10 Surrey communities is over a year old.
The Council has given an ultimatum to local residents: “volunteer” to run your library or we will close it! The Council has not consulted local residents or library users over what they refer to themselves as a “radical” plan. SCC has not listened to sensible alternatives that will actually save money AND improve the service. Instead, they have ploughed on regardless with a policy that is unwanted, diminishes a service that consistently ranks the highest in satisfaction surveys of all Council provided services, and has cost more money to implement than it claims to save.
And let us not forget that the claimed savings amount to just 1/10,000th of the Council’s Budget in any case (and yes, I have counted the zeros properly). That’s like a person on a salary of £25,000 needing to save the price of a cup of coffee from their annual spending. You really have to ask whether it was worth the Council letting this go all the way to the High Court, with its attendant cost and effort, rather than just drop the plan or make suitable and sensible adjustments.
It is regrettable that the only way that Surrey residents can hold their Council to account and have a say on the library plans is through the High Court. If only the Council had consulted with residents and library users, and done so in an open-minded and collaborative way, then all this may have been avoided.
The Judicial Review will take place on Monday and Tuesday at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in London. The case will be put before Mr Justice Wilkie in Court 19 starting at 10.30am. All are welcome to attend.