Libraries

Council to take libraries decision again

Surrey County Council will take a decision on its libraries plans again, following a judicial review.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Wilkie upheld a technical challenge over a decision to create 10 community-run libraries staffed by volunteers, although he did not criticise the policy itself.

With that in mind, the council has decided to bring the proposal back to a Cabinet meeting on 19 June, when it will consider all the work that has been done to develop a comprehensive training package for volunteers.

In the weeks leading up to that meeting, the council will carry out a further consultation about equalities training for volunteers at community libraries.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games, 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.

“A huge amount of work has already gone into ensuring volunteers are properly trained to help all library users. I’m certain that this training would enable volunteers to provide an excellent service. There are a lot people eager to begin running their local library.”

The matter was due to go back to court in May as part of the judicial review. However, the council has carefully considered Mr Justice Wilkie’s judgement and feels it is not in the best interests of library goers or taxpayers to return to court. The council’s lawyers will now work on the wording of a legal agreement, called a consent order, with solicitors acting for the claimants who brought the judicial review against the council.

In his judgement earlier this month, Mr Justice Wilkie did not criticise the proposals for community partnered libraries or the various consultations that have been carried out by the council.

However, he did uphold a technical challenge that the Cabinet should have had more information in front of it about the work that the council had already done to develop equalities training for volunteers when it made its decision in September.

ENDS

Media requiring further information can contact James Oxley at james.oxley@surreycc.gov.uk.

Notes to editors

Under the libraries plans, communities would take over the day to day running of 10 smaller libraries, which account for about 7% of all library use in the county. The council would continue to provide everything else, including the building, the stock, computer equipment and the installation of free Wi-Fi in all its libraries.

The 10 libraries being offered for communities to run were identified following an assessment of various factors including use, cost and proximity to another library.

The 10 libraries are: Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water and Warlingham.

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