Library plans back on the table at Surrey County Council
Surrey County Council (SCC) will vote again after a high court judge ruled its decision to hand libraries over to volunteers was “unlawful”.
Mr Justice Wilkie passed down the decision on April 3, following a two day judicial review prompted by campaign group, Surrey Libraries Action Movement (Slam) which launched legal action against the council earlier this year.
Under the council’s plans, 10 libraries would be passed over to volunteers, with professional librarians removed in a bid to save cash.
The judge concluded that the decision, taken by SCC on September 27, was unlawful because the cabinet had not been made aware and did not give sufficient regard to the impact on groups such as children, elderly, and the disabled, protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The council has now decided to bring the proposal back to a cabinet meeting on June 19, when it will consider all the work done so far.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, the authority will carry out consultations about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries.
Councillor Helyn Clack said: “Our aim all along has been to keep all 52 of Surrey’s libraries open while elsewhere in the country branches are closing.
“Allowing communities to run libraries enables us to do this and it is still the council’s policy.
“Although the council had done a lot of work to develop equalities training, the High Court ruled there should have been more detail in the cabinet’s papers about it at the meeting last September, so we are going to take the decision again, with all the information we need about volunteer training.”
The matter was due to go back to court in May as part of the judicial review but the council decided it was not in the best interests of library-goers or taxpayers to return to court.
Hersham was among the libraries earmarked to be community-led in the future, after the council had trialled the initial 10.