Campaigners fighting to save libraries consider taking case to the highest court in the UK

Court of Appeal rules in favour of decision to close half of Brent’s libraries

Campaigners are considering whether to stop the closure of six libraries in Brent by taking the case to the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal today rejected the library supporters’ appeal against a judicial review which ruled in favour of Brent Council’s decision to close half of the borough’s libraries.

If the case is heard in the Supreme Court it would be the first opportunity for the highest court in the UK to consider the impact closing libraries would have not only in Brent, but nationwide.

Speaking outside closed Kensal Rise Library this afternoon, campaigner and claimant, Margaret Bailey, said: “We believe this case raises important issues for libraries and other cuts across the country.

“If that means taking the case to the highest court in the land then we will. We have taken it this far.”

She added: “Our legal team presented compelling evidence of damage to communities from Brent Council’s library closures, so we are disappointed that the appeal judges have not found in our favour.

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“Closing half of our libraries has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, among them children and families, the elderly, the disabled and those unemployed or on low incomes.

“Brent has always had the means to keep these libraries open, it just lacks the will. The overwhelming strength of public feeling over the last year shows that communities need, want and will support local libraries.”

Novelist Maggie Gee, from Kensal Rise who was part of the campaign which saved the library during the 1980s, said: said: “We are both shocked and surprised. Nobody gains from this.

“The council is letting millions of pounds go out of the community by getting rid of our libraries.

“Everybody loses. We will keep up the effort to keep libraries in our communities.”

Fine Art student, Holly Hogan, 21, of Leighton Gardens, Kensal Rise, said: “It’s awful. I went to Kensal Rise Library when I was a child.

“Brent Council really needs to listen to the people who live here. “The people have fought so hard to keep them open and are willing to run it as a community.”

Representing the campaigners, Dinah Rose QC argued that in deciding to close six libraries, the council failed to prevent discrimination against groups such as Asians, young children and children, by neglecting to assess the impact on such groups.

John Halford, the campaigners’ solicitor from law firm Bindmans LLP, said: “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent, and all other local authorities, to properly grapple with the impact withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities.

“The Court of Appeal appears to accept that there is a risk of indirect discrimination against significant numbers of people in Brent resulting from its plans to impose devastating cuts on local library services, but it has excused the council from properly taking that risk into account before it deciding to make those cuts.”

“Our position is that this is simply wrong in principle. If the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case, we anticipate the outcome being very different.”

Campaigners set up an umbrella group called Brent SOS Libraries and took the case to the Royal Courts of Justice in July.

However, the High Court judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, ruled in favour of the council and six branches closed immediately.

Undeterred by the outcome, the case was brought to the Court of Appeal.

Cllr Ann John (Labour), leader of Brent Council, said: “We are pleased that today the court of appeal found unanimously in the council’s favour, upholding the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley that the council acted lawfully.

“We will now be able to begin implementing the improvement plan that will deliver a better library service for the people of Brent.”