Comment
A sad day and a bitter disappointment to the library campaigners of Brent.  Below are the key points, quotes and media coverage so far.  Please note that the points made are all covered with published evidence.  However, I have not had legal training and so any analysis produced below should be weighed carefully against the evidence.
Brent – Results and initial feedback
  • Brent appeal lost on all counts, with unanimous decision by all three judges:
    • Section 149 of Equality Act 2010 was “carefully considered” by Brent Council.
    • The council kept its duty towards the Equality legislation “properly in mind from an early stage”.
    • Duties under Section 7 of Public Libraries and Museums Act were not broken.
    • The consultation process was lawful.
    • Council decisions were “rational” and “made with great care”

    “1. Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is obliged to investigate any failures to provide an efficient and comprehensive service. He said he has been waiting for the verdict. He has it now and it is time to act. Write to him here.  We have lost 218 hours of library service across Brent. In return the Council has “improved its service” by a mere 23 hours. It takes 5 weeks to get a delivery of books if you cannot get to one of their remaining, inaccessible libraries.
    2. A cross-party Select Committee is also investigating the nationwide closures. We will be submitting evidence next month.
    3. Not one Labour councillor publicly opposed against the closures. Not one voted against.  It is up to every voter in Brent to complain to their councillor, MP and London Assembly member, Navin Shah. It is unacceptable and undemocratic to ignore such huge opposition.  Call, email and write to them here.”
    Press release from Bindmans, the law firm fighting the case on behalf of the campaigners:

    Campaigners seeking to halt the closure plans for half of Brent’s public libraries suffered a setback today when the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal against refusal of their judicial review claim. The campaigners are considering pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court. It would be the first opportunity for the highest UK court to consider both the equality duties at the heart of their case and the legality of large-scale public library closures.

    The campaigners’ solicitor, John Halford, of Bindmans LLP said today:
    “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent, and all other local authorities, to properly grapple with the impact withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities. The Court of Appeal appears to accept that there is a risk of indirect discrimination against significant numbers of people in Brent resulting from its plans to impose devastating cuts on local library services, but it has excused the Council from properly taking that risk into account before it deciding to make those cuts. Our position is that this is simply wrong in principle. If the Supreme Court is willing to hear this case, we anticipate the outcome being very different.”
    Margaret Bailey of SOS Brent Libraries, who is also one of the appellants, said:
    “Our legal team presented compelling evidence of damage to communities from Brent Council’s library closures, so we are disappointed that the appeal judges have not found in our favour. Closing half of our libraries has had a devastating effect on the most vulnerable members of our community, among them children and families, the elderly, the disabled and those unemployed or on low incomes. Brent has always had the means to keep these libraries open, it just lacks the will. The overwhelming strength of public feeling over the last year shows that communities need, want and will support local libraries. Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has so far held back pending the outcome of this test case. The thousands of letters and petitions he has received demonstrate that Brent is neglecting its duties under the Libraries and Museums Act, and he must now call hold a public inquiry into the actions of this council. Brent SOS Libraries campaign will also present evidence to the select committee that clearly demonstrates Brent’s failures.”

    The Lib Dem leader on the council, Cllr Paul Lorber has also issues a press release:

    We will continue the campaign to save Brent’s libraries. If elected as the council’s administration in the 2014 council elections the Liberal Democrats will do all we can to undo Labour’s disastrous and destructive library policy – including by reopening libraries. In the meantime we must continue to put pressure on the Labour councillors who voted for the closures. No other area has suffered the loss of such a large proportion of its libraries. There is also an obligation on Conservative Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt. He should take seriously his legal duty to superintend the library service and order an Inquiry.”
    • Statement by Brent SOS Libraries CampaignSave Kensal Rise Library. 
    • Brent library campaigners lose appeal - BookSeller.  “In a judgment given in court this afternoon (19th December), Lord Justices Pill, Richards and Davis upheld the decision made in October by Mr Justice Ouseley at judicial review in favour of Brent council, rejecting the claims made by residents that the council had fallen foul of the Equality Act and been unfair to community groups who put forward proposals to save the libraries, which include those at Kensal Rise and Preston Park.”

    “Brent Council leader Ann John said: “We are pleased that today the court of appeal found unanimously in the council’s favour, upholding the decision of Mr Justice Ouseley that the council acted lawfully. We will now be able to begin implementing the improvement plan that will deliver a better library service for the people of Brent.”

    “Solicitor John Halford, of the campaign’s solicitors Bindmans LLP, said: “Today’s Court of Appeal ruling is very difficult to reconcile with what Parliament had intended when it enacted the equality duty that obliges Brent and all other local authorities to properly grapple with the impact that a withdrawal of local services of this kind has on communities. “There are still other options to be pursued. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport have looked at over 2,000 complaints from people in Brent about the decimation of the library services.”
    “The six libraries identified for closure are in unsuitable locations and badly in need of expensive and unaffordable repairs.  The closures will help fund improvements to the remaining library service and contribute towards £104 million of savings the council needs to make.”

    “I consider that an air of unreality has descended over this particular line of attack. Councils cannot be expected to speculate on or to investigate or to explore such matters ad infinitum”. Lord Justice Davies