A HIGH court judge has ruled that Gloucestershire County Council's decision to withdraw funding from 10 libraries was not only 'unlawful' but also 'bad government.'

Judge Martin McKenna announced on Wednesday, November 16, that GCC's actions were 'not merely unlawful decisions but in substance bad government.'

He ruled that GCC failed to comply with 'public sector equality duties' owed to vulnerable social groups, including single mothers, children, elderly and the disabled.

The authority must now reconsider its plans to withdraw funding from 10 of its 38 libraries, including Minchinhampton, as well as the proposed withdrawal of its mobile library service.

Nick Hurst, chairman of Minchinhampton Parish Council, previously expressed concerns that the elderly population would struggle to get to the nearest alternative library in Nailsworth.

"It will be difficult for the elderly to travel that far down a steep hill and that is why we are determined to continue with our preparations for the community to take over the library in Minchinhampton," he said.

GCC leader Mark Hawthorne stressed that although Judge McKenna had criticised the council's actions, he also said there was nothing wrong in principle with the decision to transfer some libraries to communities.

Chief executive Pete Bungard said GCC had a priority to protect services for the vulnerable but added that it would have to reduce its spending to continue that provision, with libraries taking some of the burden.

"This is a huge disappointment as we take our duties with regards to the Equalities Act extremely seriously," he said.

"In this case, the judge has found in our favour saying that we can reduce our budget and have fewer libraries.

"He was also clear that our consultation was sound and open minded."

GCC was refused permission to appeal but can apply directly to the Court of Appeal in a bid to take the case further.