The Court of Appeal have rejected a legal challenge by residents in Brent to a proposal by the Labour-run Council to close six libraries. I'm not sure what the campaigners next move will be. Their website urges supporters to email the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and :
...ask him to use his statutory powers to investigate, intervene and order a public inquiry.
Pure localists might argue that councils should not have to provide libraries. That it should be a democratic decision rather than a legal requirement – if the councillors close the libraries vote them out. This would be taking a localism a bit too far in my opinion. Councils might not have to run the libraries themselves but they should have to ensure that a service is provided. It is also reasonable that the requirement that it should be "comprehensive" should be maintained. Expecting people in Kensal Rise to trudge off to Wembley does not constitute a comprehensive service.
Lord Justice Pill said:
"Given the scale of the spending reductions the council was required to make, and the information available following earlier studies, a decision that the library service should bear a share of the reduction was not, in my judgment, unlawful."
But the service could "bear a share" without closing libraries. Volunteers have offered to keep the libraries open. Bureaucracy could be reduced. There is an alternative as many other councils have shown.
If we are to retain a statutory requirement to provide a comprehensive service then the law should mean something.
Over to you, Mr Hunt.