Local campaigners have engaged solicitors and barristers to challenge the decision of Devon County Council to end the mobile library service in December.
On the 12 July, the County Council cabinet took the decision despite the almost total condemnation of the idea in its consultation earlier in the year.
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 decision has not taken into account properly the impact on the elderly, disabled and young. 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.’
Watkins & Gunn have sent a detailed letter of claim to the Council setting out the legal arguments and inviting the Council to withdraw its decision. If Devon County Council fail to back down, the matter will go to the High Court.
‘It is important that people affected by the service closure come forward with examples’ said Mr Imperato, ‘there must be many who will be impacted.’
Torridge Councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin, who has been leading the campaign to save Devon’s mobile libraries, said:
‘The fact that we have been able to secure legal representation for our campaign shows what firm ground we are on fighting this campaign. We have been arguing all summer that the decision was not only cruel but based on flawed data. I urge County Councillors to reconsider their decision when they meet later this month, and to look seriously at some of the options we have suggested to fund and develop the service.’
Meanwhile, Children’s Laureate Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE, pictured below with Councillor Cottle-Hunkin, has written to the Leader of Devon County Council, Councillor John Hart, saying:
‘To cut back, to cancel, the only access to libraries to those in most need, those young and old in poverty or isolation in our villages and remote rural areas, is simply wrong. Libraries, like education, like the health service, should be for everyone, and especially for the most needy.’
The petition to Save Devon’s mobile libraries can be signed at: www.change.org/SaveOurMobileLibrary
The full text of Sir Michael Morpurgo’s letter is as follows:
Dear Councillor John Hart,
I’m told the Council is planning to withdraw mobile libraries from rural areas of Devon.
I understand completely that at the moment councils up and down the country are cutting back, that money is tight, and times are hard.
But times are harder still for the most disadvantaged amongst us. You will know that in many far-flung villages and communities of Devon there are many such people, many old people living in isolation with ever fewer services to sustain them at home, and many families existing in poverty - rural Devon is high on the list of poverty amongst children, as I’m sure you are aware.
It is sadly all too common in this country, that town and city libraries are often targeted for closure when councils need to cut back. But to cut back, to cancel, the only access to libraries to those in most need, those young and old in poverty or isolation in our villages and remote rural areas, is simply wrong. Libraries, like education, like the health service, should be for everyone, and especially for the most needy.
Exeter, as you know, has recently been enjoying a year as UNESCO City of Literature, an honour much deserved. There is a fine tradition of literature in Devon, of which we are all proud. It is therefore shameful that we should celebrate this honour by denying those most needy amongst us from the opportunity to access books.
Mobile libraries have been much valued over the decades amongst country people, very much part of the community. So many, old and young especially, have come to rely on this regular service as an essential part of their lives. Those mobile libraries are much loved. To think of taking them away is unkind and unfair. We need kindness and fairness in our society, as I’m sure you agree.
I would appeal to you to urge your colleagues on the council to do the right thing and keep our mobile libraries.
Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE. Children’s Laureate.