Moray Library campaigner abandons legal fight

Vivien Hendry

The Hopeman mother of two whose threat of legal action forced Moray Council into making a U-turn on their decision to close seven libraries has abandoned her legal challenge.

Moray Council had to admit they were wrong to ignore legal opinion and the findings of an Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) when they affirmed the decision to close seven libraries and one mobile library in September.

Last week at a Full Council meeting the Tory/Independent administration forced through a change that still left four libraries being closed – but halted closures of Dufftown, Burghead and Cullen libraries which were recommended for retention by the EIA.

The Save our Libraries Moray campaign  had challenged the initial closures with Hopeman Library user Vivien Hendry heading the legal challenge that would have saw the case go to the Court of Session.  Following the decision last week, Ms Hendry sought further legal advice on the strength of the case to retain the remaining four libraries – but today she was forced to admit that the legal route was not a viable option.

Ms Hendry said: “After the U-turn last week by Moray Council meaning three libraries scheduled for closure be kept open, I have returned to legal advisers and sought opinion on pressing on with their legal case on behalf of four libraries still being closed on Saturday – Portknockie, Rothes, Hopeman and Findochty.

“I have been gathering further evidence for consideration by the advocate who has been advising me in relation to the possibility of raising Judicial Review proceedings against Moray Council in the Court of Session.

“However, having received that legal advice I have, with great regret, decided that legal action can not presently be taken forward.

“My Solicitor and Advocate advise that although there are grounds for judicial review, the issues and costs related to closing the other libraries are unclear and a court case would be protracted.

“Therefore to avoid unnecessary costs to the public I am no longer going to pursue the legal avenue at this time.

“I still have serious concerns over the adequacy of the Council’s consultation process in relation to the Equalities Impact Assessment and generally, and am gutted that my own local library in Hopeman is to be closed in circumstances where over £27,000 European funding will have to be repaid to the European Regional Development Fund.

“The new library project cost £157,000 but the service in Hopeman only costs in the region of £8,000 a year to run. Even the revised decision of the Council seems to me to be irrational and short-sighted.

“The Council should take note that if it becomes clear that the remaining provision is inadequate – either in equality terms or in relation to the provision of adequate services generally – there will be scope for Judicial Review.”

Despite her withdrawing the case Ms Hendry issued a final appeal to Moray Council to consider steps they could take to minimise the effects of library closures.  She said:  “I think, for example, the people of Hopeman and Rothes would be open to the possibility of the running of the library being taken on by the community for the benefit of the community.

“I will be actively investigating this possibility and, indeed, it was something that was raised as an option several months ago but not able to be followed through

“The fight to save our libraries is not over – I will be attending the demonstration outside Hopeman library on Saturday at 11.30am before the library closes for good at noon. I hope many others may join me to send Moray Council a strong message from many of those who voted the current administration in.”

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