Surrey County Council has today announced that it “will take a decision on its libraries plans again, following a judicial review.”
We welcome this announcement – finally, some common sense. Mr Justice Wilkie ruled earlier this month that SCC’s plans were “unlawful” and that the plans fell “substantially short” of what was required by law. Despite SCC’s initial defiant reaction that it was “pleased” with the Judgment and that it intended to “carry on regardless” it has now recognised that its initial reaction was wrong and must now act within the law, with respect to the Judge’s detailed ruling and that it must reconsider its decision.
David Hodge said at today’s cabinet meeting that SCC’s lawyers were agreeing a High Court Order with the Claimant’s lawyers, although he did not say what that Order would contain, leaving the contents of the Order open to speculation.
One New Haw resident said today upon hearing the news:
“It sounds like the County Council has capitulated. Clearly they didn’t rate their chances at the next hearing and so they’ve thrown in the towel early.”
Whilst not necessarily and wholly concurring with that view we would say that SCC has come to the right decision in not committing more good taxpayers money after bad – Lord knows the Council has wasted enough money on its library policy already!
We wait to see what the Court Order says.
Council leader, Hodge, has said he will attempt to take the decision again at the Cabinet meeting on 19th June. We will be looking for evidence at this meeting that the Council has evaluated the benefits of paid staff to library users so that it can then understand the impact of losing them. Once it has understood this impact it can only then decide whether training of volunteers can mitigate the loss of paid staff, whether something other than training is required, or indeed whether the gap is too big to be filled by a rota of volunteers.
The only way to analyse the benefits of paid staff to library users is to ask the library users themselves, by way of a full and open-minded user consultation. We would expect to see evidence and results of such a consultation presented to the Cabinet meeting on the 19th June.
Our view, as explained in this open letter, is that it would be extremely difficult to replace the benefits of paid staff with only volunteers but, if David Hodge is as insistent on the policy as he seems, then we expect to see “substantial” evidence at the Cabinet meeting to justify it.