The judgement that Surrey County Council acted unlawfully in forcing “volunteers” to take over the managing and delivery of a public service as important as the library service is being digested and understood. The far reaching implications are being considered.
Here are a some quotes from Mr Justice Wilkie’s judgement:
“In my judgment, the reliance by the Defendant [SCC] on the same bland assertions that training would be required and monitored, as had been contained in the February report, fell substantially short of enabling the cabinet members to give due regard to this obvious equality issue at the stage the process had reached in September.”
“[a]ccordingly in my judgment the claimants have succeeded in establishing that the decision of the 27th September 2011 was unlawful.”
And a couple of quotes from the brave claimants that withstood personal challenges and slights throughout the process:
“I am delighted with the result and I hope that it reminds senior county councillors that they should not forget that we employ them to provide efficient services and, as importantly, represent us the electorate. It is a great disappointment that the council has wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money trying to ignore and ride roughshod over public criticism and outrage, defending the indefensible. ”
– Nick Dorrington
“I am absolutely over the moon with the result. Libraries are such an important part of local communities and for Surrey County Council to remove funding for library staff would have had a terrible impact on the local area. Everyone is painfully aware that cuts needs to be made at the moment, but I hope that councils across the country will think twice before trying to implement them in sectors that are so vital not only to community groups, but also integral to education, promoting literacy and the joy of reading.”
– Lucy Williams.
And Phil Shiner, Solicitor, of Public Interest lawyers, said:
This is a fantastic result for the Claimants as well as a sharp reminder to local authorities up and down the country that a need for budget cuts is not an excuse for cutting local services without careful consideration of how such cuts will impact upon vulnerable groups. In this case, it was clearly unlawful for Surrey County Council to remove all paid staff from 10 libraries whilst dismissing the impact of such a change with vacuous assertions that all problems will be cured by training for volunteers.