Camden library campaigners drop High Court case against closures

Camden library campaigners have ditched plans to launch a judicial review against moves to close four reading rooms after a High Court judge threw out a similar claim.

�Camden library campaigners have ditched plans to launch a judicial review against withdrawing of funds which could see four reading rooms close, after a High Court judge threw out a similar claim.

CPLUG – an umbrella organisation representing groups fighting to save libraries in Hampstead, Primrose Hill, Belsize Park and Regent’s Park – is instead appealing to the local government ombudsman to block the unpopular threatened closures.

Chairman Alan Templeton said: “We have changed course and have stopped judicial review proceedings and are going to the local government ombudsman. This is more flexible, quicker and cheaper.

“We are very poor and need to conserve our resources.”

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The group will argue that the ombudsman should intervene on the basis that Camden Council’s consultation constituted of “maladministration”.

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The announcement represents a major change of tact since only earlier this month the group issued a letter warning the council of its plans to take the authority to the High Court.

It follows a decision last week by the High Court to throw out a case by campaigners in neighbouring Brent to block six libraries closing there – although campaigners are appealing this.

But Mr Templeton denied that CPLUG’s change of tactics was due to this.

He said that the ombudsman’s intervention would be a powerful tool in campaigners’ armoury.

He said: “This is not at all based on the decision regarding Brent.

“Our basic case is based on the consultation – not on any problem caused by the Public Libraries and Museums Act – as Brent’s was. Camden had a very biased consultation.

“The main reason we dropped the case was cost. The ombudsman does not have the same power the High Court has to force Camden to do what it wants but it would be foolish of the council to ignore it.

“We are not out to screw or crucify Camden, we just want it to be a proper council and think again.”

Fellow Camden library campaigners welcomed the decision to scrap plans for a judicial review.

They had warned it could delay the town hall’s decision to allocate transitional funding to groups wanting to take over the running of the libraries.

Tony Ghilchik, of the Phoenix Project, which is working to set up a charity to take over Heath Library in Keats Grove, Hampstead, said: “I am very encouraged by that news.”

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