The High Court today upheld an earlier decision to impose a temporary order which stops the authority from taking any ‘irrevocable action’ towards creating community libraries ahead of a judicial review of the council’s plans. But the court ruled that Byfleet, which was due to launch as a community library tomorrow, can go ahead.
The court also decided there should be a judicial review of Surrey’s library plans in the week starting 20 February. The temporary order will remain in place until the judicial review is completed.
Denise Saliagopoulos, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games, said: “It’s important to say that the court has not passed judgement on our plans. This is just an order halting the process ahead of a hearing to look into our proposals.
“From the start we’ve been determined to try and keep all 52 of Surrey’s libraries open while branches are closing elsewhere in the country. The good news is that volunteers at Byfleet can go ahead with their plans, but overall we’re disappointed by the court’s decisions. It is a particular shame for those volunteers who were looking forward to launching their own community-run libraries.
“Inevitably people’s opinions about our plans have varied but we’ve been hugely encouraged by the support we’ve received from people who understand we are trying to do what is best for Surrey’s libraries.”
Under Surrey’s plans, communities will take over the day-to-day running of 10 libraries while the county council continues to provide everything else, including the building, stock and computer equipment. Free Wi-Fi will also be installed in all libraries.
These 10 smaller libraries account for just 7% of all Surrey library usage. The county council understands they are important to their communities, which is why it has been working hard to safeguard their futures as community run branches.
The plans mean resources can be focused on Surrey’s other libraries and invested in the latest technology to make the service even better. The virtual library is now the county’s fourth busiest and is used around three million times a year for downloading ebooks and transactions such as renewing or reserving books online.