Mayor faces court challenge over libraries decision

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An elected mayor is facing legal action after he overruled councillors who voted to change his budget and save the town’s libraries.

The mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, proposed a budget which would result in the closure of two libraries and see 12 more being run by community volunteers.

Two thirds of councillors voted in favour of an amendment to allocate funding to the libraries but Mr Davies refused to change his budget.

The vote saw 43 councillors wanting to include the amendment, with six councillors voting against and three abstaining.

But English Democrat Mr Davies said he was not going to change the budget and the 14 libraries would continue to close or be transferred to community volunteers.

A judge has granted permission to an unnamed resident to bring an application for judicial review challenging the mayor.

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, which represents the resident, said: “The mayor’s refusal to implement the decision of a two-thirds majority of all of Doncaster’s councillors is not only disastrous for the future of Doncaster’s libraries, it raises a fundamental question about the elected mayor system.

“The claim will provide an important answer about the balance of power between an elected mayor and all of an authority’s elected councillors.”

Simon Wiles, Doncaster Council’s director of finance and corporate services, said: “We are very confident that the mayor has acted properly and in accordance with the clear legal advice he has received, and that the decisions taken will be successfully defended.”

The case will be heard at Leeds Combined Court Centre on July 24.

Mr Davies is able to refuse to follow the wishes of the full council under the elected mayoral system, which gives him the final executive say over all of the authority’s financial decisions.

At the time of the decision he told the Yorkshire Post: “As I understand it, I cannot spend the money on anything else, but I am not prepared to spend it on the libraries as suggested because my policy is already successful.

“So the money will be placed on one side. The Labour party spent years neglecting libraries in this borough and my policy was to close two and hand 12 over to the community to save money.”

Doncaster residents voted to retain the elected mayor position for the town in a referendum earlier this year.