Pontypool: 01495 762244 | Newport: 01633 262122 | Cardiff: 02921 154313

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A library campaign group is bringing legal proceedings against Rhondda Cynon Taff council for failing to follow the correct consultation procedure on the closure of their local library.

 

The Rhydyfelin Library Support Group will launch a judicial review case claiming they did not have an opportunity to object to the planned closure of Rhydyfelin library after the council made a last minute decision to close it, instead of Pontyclun.

 

14 of the county’s 26 libraries were earmarked for closure following an autumn cabinet meeting in a bid to reduce a £70m funding gap over the next four years.

 

At the time Rhydyfelin library was not one of the 14 earmarked so local residents did not respond to the council’s four-week consultation period.

 

But in a last-minute alteration, the decision was made at a cabinet meeting on the 8th January to save Pontyclun library instead of Rhydyfelin to provide a ‘better geographical spread’.

 

Since then, local residents have rallied together to try and save the library forming a support group and seeking legal advice from one of Wales’ leading experts in Administrative & Public law, Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn Solicitors.

 

Michael Imperato has acted for individuals and campaign groups in a number of high profile Judicial Review cases against national and local government in Wales over the last few years.

 

Now acting on behalf of the campaign group, Michael Imperato has been successful in securing Legal Aid funding to pursue a Judicial Review case against the council.

 

He said: “With legal aid granted, we can now make an application to launch a judicial review to examine the decision-making process of the council. We hope to quash the council’s decision to close the library for failing to consult with local residents and take into account their equality duties.

 

“Public libraries provide a vital service to a local community. In the age of the internet, it is easy to assume everyone has access to a wealth of free information.  The reality is that there are millions of people in this country who are not connected to the internet.  For those people, the library is the only resource they have.  For parents of young children, the library plays an important role in supporting their development and improving their literacy skills.  For the elderly it is a vital lifeline to ensure they are not excluded from society.

 

“Not many people realise that you can challenge a local authority or government’s decision in courts through a Judicial Review case but they are an extremely important way of holding a public body to account. There have been many successful challenges to library closures against councils across the UK and we hope to have a positive result with this case.”

 

Alexandra Strong of Rhydyfelin Library Support Group, said: “Rhydyfelin library is a vital component of our community used by everyone from pre-school children to pensioners. The community was angered by the underhand way the decision to close the library was made and the lack of local consultation. We have concerns that these proposals might breach statutory Welsh Public
Library Standards.  These concerns have been brought to the attention of the government panel currently looking into library provision in Wales.”

Pontypool: 01495 762244 | Newport: 01633 262122 | Cardiff: 02921 154313

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