From Councillor Kevin Bonavia:
Lewisham Council have just served our legal challenge on the Government’s decision to drastically downgrade Lewisham Hospital A&E and maternity services on the ground that the Special Adminstrator was acting beyond his powers.
Depending on how the Government respond, this could end up being decided in Court as part of a substantial judicial review, by which we would seek the Court rendering the Government’s decision void.
As such, this could be a costly process, so the Council has set up a Legal Action Fund for the public to donate whatever they can towards legal funding. We don’t know at this early stage how much will be required, but if there is any surplus it will go to a local charity, Children First Lewisham.
The link to the online donation form can be found here: http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/news/Pages/Council-takes-Lewisham-Hospital-decision-to-the-courts.aspx
I think this is a good practical step forward. I’ve replied to Kevin asking for a breakdown of the costs involved – I’ll update this page when he replies UPDATE: see below
If you can contribute to the fund, the direct link is here:
You can pay by credit or debit card, and the minimum is a fiver.
From Kevin again:
The costs of the legal challenge are initially likely to consist mostly of engaging specialist barrister expertise at Queen’s Counsel level, which unfortunately is not pro bono. Other work is being carried out by the Counsel’s in-house legal team for which there is no additional cost, although it does of course add to their workload. Provision also has to be made for any costs orders that be made by the Court during judicial review proceedings, but it is too early to estimate how much these might be at the moment.
As for operating the legal challenge fund, there are no external costs as this has been set up and maintained by Council officers, so it’s a matter of use of officers’ time, which I understand is quite minimal since the payment system used is the same as that for other payments made to the Council online. Just to make a small clarification to your post, I understand that people can enter a lower sum than the suggested £5 – and also a higher sum than the suggested maximum of £25! As of yesterday, the fund had received donations in a total sum of £2,400.
As you’ve probably already seen, today (Saturday) there will be a day of protests across the country against the proposed library closures. Lewisham Council want to close Blackheath Village Library, so please show your support. Come and read extracts from your favourite book at 2pm. The following authors and local people will be attending:
The spectacularly good writer of Blackheath Village and Environs, occasional commenter to this blog, and all round expert on anything to do with Blackheath’s history. To be honest, if you’re living in Blackheath, it’s worth attending just to hear him speak. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without his books as a reference-point.
Columnist for The Guardian, and writer of many books, including The Reluctant Bride: One Woman’s Journey (Kicking and Screaming) Down the Aisle, (extracts of which made me laugh as I was nervously preparing to marry Mrs Bugle).
Prolific author, literary editor of both The Observer and the Independent on Sunday. His latest book is The Last Weekend.
Lindsey Davis – Writer of historic novels, titles include Rebels and Traitors, set around the English Civil War, and Nemesis, an Ancient Roman detective series. Which sounds like fun!
Father Nicholas, from All Saints
The vicar from the big pointy church on the heath. Not this.
Lucy Mangan of the Grauniad TV reviews will be reading from her book The Reluctant Bride in a shameless bid to save Blackheath Library at 2pm on Saturday. What’s that you say? Maybe it is her favourite book! Why shouldn’t her favourite book be one that she wrote herself, for goodness sake? The trouble with you people is that you are far too cynical.
On another note, Sir Ian Mills of Age Exchange wrote me a very valid email, pointing out that whilst my post “Pay a tenner to find out what will happen to your library” was factually correct, it was also extremely bad tempered. He has a point. I had a hangover. On a school night. Sorry. If you want to look at Age Exchange’s plans for the library, they are on display inside their shop. You should go regardless, it’s a great place.
Nonetheless, some of the comments below the post raise some interesting questions:
- This seems to me to be the most significant issue: If Age Exchange hadn’t stepped in to offer the council this alternative, wouldn’t there have been more pressure on Lewisham council not to close the library? Isn’t this just giving them an easy get-out?
- Is this a way for Age Exchange to expand its profile, maintain its funding, and by merging itself with the library, ensure that it cannot be easily removed from the high street? The first role of any organisation is to maintain its own existence, even if it is a charity.
- Why should local library-goers be encouraged to donate £30 per year to maintain a library service that up until this year was provided by the local council?
- Darryl claims that Greenwich Council has decided to cease funding for Age Exchange. Does Greenwich Council contribute funds to Age Exchange? (I couldn’t see any mention of them on their funding page).
- The current library is funded by Lewisham council, but Age Exchange is in the Greenwich Council part of Blackheath. How will this issue be resolved?
I’ve written before about how much I like the Age Exchange Centre. It’s great. But by offering Mayor Bullock a Big-Society-friendly way to downgrade the status of the current library, it may have done more harm than good. Maybe lobbying the current owners of the existing library building to reduce or forgo the rent could have been a better strategy, which is now unavailable to the BVLUG, as the anti-closure lobby is effectively split between two positions.
Somewhere in Blackbird Leys, somewhere in Berinsfield, somewhere in Botley, somewhere in Benson or in Bampton, to name only the communities beginning with B whose libraries are going to be abolished, somewhere in each of them there is a child right now, there are children, just like me at that age in Battersea, children who only need to make that discovery to learn that they too are citizens of the republic of reading. Only the public library can give them that gift.
Phillip Pullman on public libraries. Please read it Mayor Bullock, before you destroy our library beginning with B.