Moray Council seek more time over suspending library closures

Pressure has continued to build on the Moray Council administration over their plans to close seven libraries by the end of this month.

Earlier this week it was revealed that solicitors acting on behalf of Save our Libraries Moray campaigner Vivien Hendry had written to the Chief Executive at the local authority asking that they place a temporary halt on their closure plans until the decision had been reviewed by the Court of Session.

Moray Council had been given until today to respond to the request – and if they failed to do so then an Interim Interdict would be sought to force them to do so.

However, it has emerged that the local authority has requested an extension to that deadline until 5pm on Wednesday – the day that the issue is set to be discussed at a full council meeting.

A spokesman for Save our Libraries Moray said: “We are aware that the Council has asked for the extension and we have no problem with this.  Our hope is that it is a sign that perhaps the administration are reconsidering their position on the closures.

“However, it is not yet clear that the matter will even be discussed at the council meeting on Wednesday – that will depend on an SNP motion to suspend standing orders and allow the original decision to be discussed again, and that will require the agreement of two-thirds of those councillors present.”

Save our Libraries Moray has argued that the decision taken by Moray Council failed to meet their statutory obligations in that they did not properly consult with communities affected by the library closures, nor did they take any account of their own Equalities Impact Assessment that warned that the closures could lead to a legal challenge as remaining services might not meet legal obligations.

Moray Council has insisted that the remaining libraries would provide a sufficient service and that the closures were required in the face of a £30million cut in their budget over the next three years.

The Solicitor acting for the campaigners wrote this week that their were “much bigger issues” involved in Moray Council’s closure strategy.  In a blog outlining the legal process being followed by the campaigners, Peter Brash from Elgin firm Grigor & Young wrote:  “It’s worth remembering that what Vivien Hendry aims to get the Court of Session to review is the validity of the process by which Moray Council reached its decision.

“The law requires all sectors of government to make decisions in a reasonable way, taking into account all relevant issues and ignoring those which are not relevant.

“At a time when Moray’s councillors have to make a series of crucial and difficult budgetary decisions, it is vital that the decision-making process should be rigorous and transparent.

“It is arguable that the potential concern here is much wider than just the libraries issue. If Moray Council has failed to act reasonably in reaching this decision, the risk is that, if it goes unchecked, the Council is more likely to act unreasonably in making other decisions in the future.”

Meanwhile campaigners are planning two protests ahead of next week’s council meeting, the first outside Cullen Library on Monday morning and again outside the Council HQ on Wednesday morning as Councillor’s gather for the crunch meeting.

Leave a comment