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Court of Appeal agrees to hear Doncaster libraries case

The Court of Appeal has granted permission for a challenge to Doncaster Council’s proposed cuts to library services in a case over the balance of power between an elected mayor and an authority’s elected councillors.

The case centres on the setting of the authority’s Budget in early 2012. The timeline was as follows:

  • On 23 February, elected mayor Peter Davies proposed his budget for 2012/13 to the council.
  • The head of the Labour group subsequently put forward an amendment which would have allocated funds to save two closed libraries and stop 12 others from being run by volunteers.
  • On 5 March, the full council voted – by 43 votes to six with three abstentions – to include the proposed amendment in the budget.
  • The following day the Mayor said he would not implement the budget as set by the council and would instead continue with his plan to close libraries or transfer them to volunteers.

The Court of Appeal will be asked to consider – amongst other points – the powers of a democratically elected council to propose binding amendments to the council’s annual financial strategy.

It will also examine whether the budget constitutes a council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

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The claimant, Carol Buck, lost at the High Court in July last year with Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruling that the authority had acted properly and lawfully.

Buck’s law firm, Public Interest Lawyers, said it would seek to obtain an expedited hearing. The case is expected to take place in the Court of Appeal before June this year.

Daniel Carey of Public Interest Lawyers, which has been involved in a number of challenges to cuts to library services, said: “I am pleased that the Court of Appeal has recognised the importance of the issues in this case and the validity of our legal arguments.

“The democratic mandate of the Mayor does not extend to trampling the democratic mandate of the full council when it has specifically provided for the funding of highly valued services such as Doncaster’s libraries.”

Philip Hoult

See also:

Library closures - learning the lessons by John Sharland

High Noon for Doncaster's budget by Nicholas Dobson

 

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