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Hope in library closure battle

Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband with protestors outside Carcroft library.

Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband with protestors outside Carcroft library.

A DISABLED campaigner battling to save Doncaster’s libraries has been given a fresh glimmer of hope in her fight, after a top judge revived her legal challenge.

Carol Buck went to court against Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies following a decision taken in 2011 to close two of the town’s libraries - with a further 12 being staffed by volunteers.

Now, in a court case that has already cost Doncaster taxpayers £30,000, Ms Buck has been given leave to appeal the decision - although the libraries at Carcroft and Skellow have already shut.

If she is successful, the Court of Appeal will have the power to quash the Mayor’s decision and restore previous council-funded library services.

The challenge came after the full council voted for an amendment to fund paid staff in some of the affected libraries to the tune of £400,000 in November 2011 - but Mr Davies resolved to stand by his decision.

The mayor said the moves on library funding were prompted by the need for drastic budget cuts, which left little room for manoeuvre.

In August last year, High Court judge Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled against Ms Buck, dashing her hopes, rejecting arguments that the Mayor’s decision to overrule the full council on funding issues was unlawful.

However Ms Buck’s barrister, David Wolfe, went to the Appeal Court yesterday in a bid to resurrect her claim.

And, after a brief hearing, Lord Justice Aikens ruled she has an arguable case, granting Ms Buck permission to renew her challenge in the Appeal Court.

“I have been persuaded that she should have permission to appeal in respect of all of the matters raised,” the appeal judge concluded.

After the hearing, Ms Buck’s lawyers commented: ‘We will be asking for this hearing to take place as soon as possible so the important question of the balance of power between the Mayor and the elected council in vital areas such as cuts to local libraries can be clarified.

“At the hearing, the Court of Appeal agreed that all of the appeal points raised by the claimant should be considered at a full hearing before a three judge Court of Appeal.”

The issues include the powers of a democratically elected council to ‘propose reasonable binding amendments to the council’s annual financial strategy’, and whether the budget constitutes a council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

“Where local services are being lost, it is vital voters know the extent of the powers of their elected representatives so those same representatives can be held accountable for their decisions,” the statement added.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Buck said: “I am very pleased we have been given permission to appeal.

“I am only sad the Mayor has ignored local protests and failed to resource the libraries in the way the council intended.”

A spokesman for Doncaster Council said the authority needed to study the judgement before making any comment on the decision.

 

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