High Court action over Surrey council's library plans

Lawyers acting for campaigners opposed to Surrey County Council's library plans have issued proceedings at the High Court in London.

The Conservative-run council agreed in September to devolve responsibilities to groups of volunteers at 10 libraries in the county.

The Surrey Libraries Action Movement (Slam) is seeking a judicial review of the council's decision-making process.

Surrey County Council has made no comment.

Slam spokesman Lee Godfrey said the action was being taken "with great reluctance".

"The library service in the affected communities will be severely diminished by these changes.

"Volunteers won't be able to check user records or the catalogue and service standards will slip.

"This will have a particularly adverse impact on vulnerable members of the community, such as the very young, the elderly and those with accessibility issues," he said.

Three weeks

Mr Godfrey added: "We fear the dismantling of these libraries will be the beginning of a period of managed decline for local communities. We just can't let this happen."

The libraries due to be run largely by volunteers are Bagshot, Bramley, Byfleet, Ewell Court, Lingfield, New Haw, Stoneleigh, Tattenhams, Virginia Water and Warlingham.

In November the council dropped plans to hand over a further nine libraries to volunteers.

Speaking at the time, council leader David Hodge said a member of staff would be present for at least 20% of the opening hours in the community-run libraries.

The county council now has three weeks to serve its evidence to the High Court, after which Slam will seek an injunction to stop the council making any further progress towards the creation of Community Partnered Libraries prior to a judicial review.

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