Legal challenge continues over mobile library cuts

6 Feb 2024
Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin & Sir Michael Morpurgo

Campaigners for Devon’s mobile libraries have not given up the fight for this vital service and are hoping to hear this week that an injunction has been granted by the judge. If so, the case will go to judicial review in the High Court where judges will decide whether the decision to close the service was made lawfully. 

On the 12 July, the County Council cabinet took the decision to close the service, despite the almost total condemnation of the idea in its public consultation earlier in the year and a huge campaign to try and save them, backed by a plethora of celebrities and authors, even including good wishes from Queen Camilla and the Princess of Wales.

Torridge Councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin, who has been leading the campaign to save the four mobile library vans which serve the most isolated parts of Devon, said:

‘We have argued from the start that the decision is not only cruel, but based on flawed data which did not take proper account of the impact on the elderly, disabled and young.’

Phil Hutty, Parliamentary Candidate for Torridge and Tavistock Lib Dems, said:

‘We understand that local councils are under extreme budgetary pressure, but once again, it is the most vulnerable who are being asked to pay for Tory mismanagement of the economy and complacency about cuts to public services. We are standing up for those suffering from these heartless policies. They should not be allowed to get away with decisions like this which are manifestly unfair.’ 

Meanwhile, Sir Michael Morpurgo, who has been a stalwart supporter of the mobile library campaign since it was launched last summer, has called for an urgent investment in children’s reading. The celebrated author has drawn attention to the ‘division of opportunity’ between children with access to books and those from deprived backgrounds who did not. Library closures by local authorities are particularly likely to affect disadvantaged families, according to Morpurgo, by closing off a vital source of access to books. “We should never, ever, in this country close down a library again,” he said.

Michael Imperato of solicitors Watkins & Gunn, who has had past success saving libraries in South Wales, Northamptonshire, and Liverpool, said:

‘I consider the Council’s Mobile libraries are a lifeline for vulnerable people in rural parts of the County. The Council’s decision-making and logic is flawed and challengeable.’

Unless required by law to overturn their decision, Devon County Council have announced that the final day that the mobile libraries will be on the road will be Thursday 29 February.

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