Legal: Funding

 

Funding is the major problem with legal challenges.  If come to court, the cases would stand a good chance of winning but, with a judicial review costing £30,000 for just two days, few so far has successfully obtained the full funding to proceed.  In an unprecedented ruling, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) have declined to pay for the challenges on the grounds that the whole community will benefit from libraries being saved and therefore a “community contribution” must be levied.  A Frequently Asked Questions from the Somerset campaign to save Watchet Library is here. The LSC went on to overrule its own appeals body to continue demanding Brent, Somerset and Isle of Wight campaigners pay towards the costs.

“Legal aid is only available to people who pass the financial eligibility criteria. In general, taxpayers would not expect legal aid to fund a case which benefits a wider community, including people who are not eligible for legal aid, without the possibility of a financial contribution from that community.” Andrew Montgomery, LSC,

The one place with the financial muscle and the legal requirement to act – the DCMS – has, so far, done nothing towards cutting councils other than sending two letters and, with one or two, having a meeting. This has resulted in the situation where taxpayers are having to pay for the legal action against the council and pay for the defence for the council.

“The message coming from the LSC and the DCMS is that communities and individuals only have rights if they can pay” (Johanna Bo Anderson, FoGL).

A challenge in Lewisham has failed due to failure to gain legal aid.  Campaigners in Brent were appealing for £5 donations.  They successfully managed to raise the full amount after a series of events involving celebrity supporters. The Isle of Wight campaign asked for any funding at all but eventually failed.  Somerset appealed for £5,000.

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