A second part of the Lincolnshire Library judgement that I find interesting is the procurement aspect. This was a big concern for us in the Brent judgement, and one of the litigants' many points of attack in that case. The Lincolnshire judgement indicates that the Localism Act may have made life much more complicated for Local Authorities.
The basic principle of procurement law is that you declare transparently what you want, and then have a level playing field for bodies to bid for it. This is particularly important in the EU where a contract may be open to international interest, as the future of Lincolnshire libraries appear to be.
These principles seem to make a "Big Society" approach much harder, since the kind of small scale organisations that David Cameron seems to imply should bid are unlikely to have much procurement experience. I noted before that in one example in Warwickshire there seemed to be shock at the amount of information that a Pre Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) asked for. Indeed, my own conversations with some would be Big Society operators led me to believe that they almost expected the Council to write their bids for them.
The interesting thing about the Lincolnshire judgement is that a successful ground of challenge has been the swift rejection of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL). GLL are quite a big business. They still have a fairly limited presence in libraries, but they are one of the biggest sports centre managers in London and the South East. They are therefore well used to procurement.
The judge ruled that they should be considered a "relevant body" under the Localism Act. In doing this he argued that they were a "charitable" body, which I don't think is really true. I think they are a non-profit making company, which makes them a kind of Co-operative. As a member of the Co-operative Party, I am all in favour of that, but it is different from a charity.
The difficulty for the procuring authority is that it creates a grey area between the kind of small scale organisation I think was envisaged under the Localism Act, and a full scale commercial procurement where companies like LSSI might be involved. Since companies treated unfairly in a procurement can sue the procuring authority for profits foregone, that could be a real headache.