Both Gloucestershire and Somerset County Councils (referred to below as “Gloucestershire” and “Somerset” respectively) needed to make costs savings as a result of centrally imposed government cuts. They both identified library services as a potential area in which costs savings could be made.
The Claimants in this case (Mrs Green, Mr Rowe and Ms Hird) all used libraries to look for work, to educate their children and, of course, to borrow books.
The Claimants brought judicial review actions against both Gloucestershire and Somerset. They argued that the library cuts were unlawful because the Councils had failed to have due to regard to public sector equality duties in relation to age (as well as disability and gender).
The Claimants argued that the substantive requirements of the public sector equality duty had not been drawn to the attention of Councillors before they made the decision to close library services. The Claimants also argued that the Equality Impact Assessments which were carried out before the decisions were made to close the libraries contained insufficient analysis on the detrimental impact of the proposed library closures on different age groups such as children, young people and the elderly (as well as the effect on disabled people, women and single mothers).
The cases were combined and were heard by the administrative division of the High Court.
The Court agreed with the Claimants. It quashed the decisions of both Gloucestershire and Somerset to reduce their provision of library services.
The Court held that it could not be said that Gloucestershire and Somerset did not have any regard to their equality duties as they had both carried out Equality Impact Assessments. However, the mere fact that an Equality Impact Assessment had been carried out did not mean that the duty had been complied with.
The Court held that the analyses contained within the Equality Impact Assessments were not rigorous and completely failed to consider whether any policies should be changed in light of the negative impacts. The Court held that both Gloucestershire and Somerset had failed undertake a sufficiently thorough information gathering exercise and conduct an analysis of that information and that they had therefore not complied with their equality duties.
R (on the application of Green) v Gloucestershire County Council; R(on the application of Howe and Hird) v Somerset County Council (Admin Court decision)  EWHC 2687()Admin);  EWHC 3216 (Admin)