High Court verdict on Brent library closures reserved until next month

13:12 22 July 2011

Brent Council

Brent Council's plans to axe six libraries is being challenged in the High Court this week


Judge will make his ruling on August 12

The verdict on a judicial review into Brent Council’s decision to axe half of the libraries in the borough will be announced next month.

In the first case in the country, campaigners fighting the library closures have taken the case to the High Court claiming the plans were ‘unlawful’.

Despite a consultation showing 82 per cent of respondents were against the plans the reading rooms in Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton are to close.

For the last few days, Mr Justice Duncan Ouseley has been listening to evidence including claims the closures could lead to indirect discrimination against ethnic groups, the elderly and disabled.

Helen Mountfield QC, who is representing three Brent library users, said none of the groups stood a chance because their business plans resulted in some cost to the council, which the council viewed as not viable.

Criticizing the council’s decision to turn down all of the community group’s proposals to run the libraries she said they had not been given enough information about the criteria which needed to be met.

She added: “If this criteria had been disclosed then they would have been able to address the criteria. It might have made a difference to what the council thought.”

She also said the consultation was flawed as “people were not given enough information’’.

In defence, the barrister representing the council argued: “This isn’t a case of closing libraries because the council couldn’t afford to run them. It has always been about improving the library service.”

The campaign to save the six branches has seen the backing of a host of stars including musician Nick Cave, boy band JLS, playwright Alan Bennett as well as Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys.

The controversial plans will save the council £1million.

The verdict is expected to be announced on August 12.

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