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‘Unlawful’ Northamptonshire council plans to close libraries blocked by High Court

The insolvent Northamptonshire County Council’s attempts to make cuts to 21 libraries in the region have been halted by the High Court.

When the local authority decided to go ahead with radical service and job cuts last week, libraries under its control were headed for the chop as Northamptonshire looks to make £70m in savings whilst under a section 114 spending ban.

But a member of the public, who took the move to a Judicial Review, won their claim yesterday after judge Mrs Justice Yip found that Northamptonshire CC did not consider whether it could provide “comprehensive and efficient” library services after the closures.

The decision rests on the statutory guidelines of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, which dictate that councils have a legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.

If the full cuts to Northamptonshire’s library services went ahead, the region would remain with 15 branches— one for every 60,000 residents. Children’s services would also be impacted by the move, as just under two-thirds of the 21 affected libraries are also children’s centres.

Although the council “cannot be criticised” for making effort to meet savings targets, Mrs Justice Yip wrote, finances could not be the sole consideration.

The judge added that she “still had to be satisfied that they were complying with their legal duties,” noting: “On the evidence before me, I am not satisfied that they appreciated what they had to decide. I appreciate the real pressure the cabinet and the defendant’s officers were operating under at the time. However, this did not relieve the defendant of the need to act lawfully.”

Northamptonshire’s recent weeks have been marred in controversy and national media spotlight: during its crisis meeting on Thursday, locals threatened to boycott council tax whilst the former leader of the authority resigned from her party as a Conservative in the council.

Protests have swarmed around the council’s building since the beginning of August calling for council leader Matthew Golby to resign.

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Image credit: Joe Giddens, PA Images


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