Save Lincolnshire Libraries have won their judicial review after Lincolnshire County Council approved plans to turn 30 libraries into community hubs in a bid to save £1.7million from its budget.
The decision, made this morning by Mr Justice Collins, ruled in favour of the campaign against the proposals.
Mr Justice Collins said: “I have decided that the means by which the county council decided and reached their decision was flawed, in two respects.
“In respect of the consultation, and of their failure to properly deal with an application by a charitable organisation [Greenwich Leisure Limited] which already ran library service for two London boroughs, Greenwich and Woolwich.
“I have decided that the decision made in December last year should be quashed.”
In a statement Richard Wills, Executive Director at LCC, said: “We are, of course, disappointed with the decision.
“We believe that our proposals would have increased library provision in the county, while also making substantial savings, meaning taxpayers would be getting a much better deal.
“The judge agreed there was a need to make savings, that our proposals would meet our statutory duties and that we’d carefully considered the impact on all residents.
“However, his decision means we will now need to undertake further consultation and re-examine the proposal from Greenwich Leisure Ltd.”
“Ironically, although we must consider that proposal as a community offer to take over the council’s services under the Localism Act, it could lead to the library service being put out to procurement and outsourced to a commercial organisation.
“We will now address the points raised by the judge and remain open-minded.
“However, we need to take time to consider the best way forward, and will announce our next steps in the near future.
“In the meantime, we’ll continue to keep in close contact with the communities wanting to become involved in running library services.
“What this judgement doesn’t change is the need for us to find further yearly savings of £90m by 2018.”
Save Lincolnshire Libraries spokesman John Hough said: “We hope this decision will mean that people throughout Lincolnshire will continue to be able to access a properly run public library service which will continue to be run by experienced staff supported by volunteers. Who will run this service is now open to question.
“What came out in court is that Greenwich Leisure is a substantial organisation with lots of ideas about how to maintain, run and improve the library service and they and others like them should now have an opportunity to properly put forward their plans.
“While Save Lincolnshire Libraries would have preferred the Library Service to remain with the County Council, it has become clear that they are unwilling to invest in and maintain the service now and in the future. In our view a new provider would now be the best option.”
The legal challenge was led by Simon Draper.