Northants County Council responds after losing legal battle over library closures

One Angel Square in Northampton
One Angel Square in Northampton

The leader of Northamptonshire County Council has said the authority will work closely with community groups to find a ‘satisfactory’ way for all parties after the council lost a High Court legal battle today (Aug 14).

Mrs Justice Yip’s ruling was handed down at Birmingham High Court at 11am and found that the council acted unlawfully when it took a decision in March to close 21 of its libraries.

Now Cllr Matt Golby has said the under pressure authority will work with community groups to find a way forward.

But he has not said that all of the 21 libraries will be taken over by independent groups or remain open.

The authority is in the financial last chance saloon and needs to save £70m this year to stop itself going under.

It is planning to reduce or cut back on all services apart from those it has to provide by law.

In a media statement Conservative Cllr Golby, who has recently seen off calls for his resignation, said: “We are considering today’s judgement very carefully.

“We are pleased that the judge has recognised that the council’s public consultation and equality impact assessments were indeed lawful, and that she acknowledges the severity of the council’s financial challenge.

“As we announced earlier this month, we had already made a decision to pause the proposed changes to the local library service for further consideration and are continuing to work closely with community groups, partners and interested parties within the wider context of the council’s budget recovery programme.

“The judge has noted that the county council is continuing these discussions with the community groups.

“In light of this, she has instructed that the legal parties use their best endeavours to agree all outstanding issues.

“The county council is committed to finding a way forward that is satisfactory and achievable for all parties.”

In her 26-page judgement, Justice Yip said: “My provisional view is that the cabinet decisions of 27 February and 13 March 2018 should be quashed.

“The flaws in the defendant’s decision making which I have identified are such that I consider the whole question of library provision needs to be revisited by the defendant, paying attention to its legal obligations and all material considerations.”

The council’s decision to close the libraries was taken to a judicial review by two residents, an infant from Desborough and a Mr Connolly from Northampton.

Campaigners have cheered today’s ruling.

Chairman of St James’ Residents Association & Friends of St James Library Graham Croucher said: “We welcome this judgement from Justice Yip which is a vindication for the overwhelming majority of the 6,000 people who responded to the consultation.

“This is a common sense people’s victory.”