Recent consultation case highlights the court’s willingness to intervene in public sector decision making

All health sector bodies thinking about taking decisions that are subject to a period of public consultation should take heed of the High Court’s recent judgment against Lincolnshire County Council’s decision to dramatically reduce its number of funded libraries. In that decision, the court demonstrated its willingness to intervene if it considers that the consultation process that was undertaken prior to the final decision being made was either flawed or failed to take into account relevant information.

Following a review of its library services, the council found that 82 per cent of its local population were not active book borrowers and book stock issued in the county in the last 10 years had dropped from five million to less than three million. The council therefore concluded that its library provision was not efficient. As a result, the council proposed that 10 of its current 45 libraries should remain open for 50 hours a week and five for 25 hours a week. Local communities would then be given the opportunity to take over the remaining libraries or create their own, with professional support from the council…

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