Published: November 24, 2012
Legal fight to halt library closures cost Somerset County Council £200k

The cost of losing a judicial review into an earlier plan to restructure part of its library service has been announced as over £200,000 by Somerset County Council.

The Council had proposed reducing hours at some of its libraries and moving others
to be run by communities, including Highbridge's (pictured), as well as making reductions to the size of the mobile library service.

Library campaigners challenged the decision and won a legal ruling last year. The cost to the Council has been published this week as £202,000.

Of this, £130,000 has been paid to the complainants in respect of their legal costs and £72,000 represents the direct legal costs of the County Council.

The basis of the challenge was whether the Council had consulted fully over its proposals and whether it had taken the views of specific groups into account under equalities legislation.

The court ruled that the consultation carried out was appropriate, but ruled against the Council in regard to its compliance with equalities legislation.

Cabinet Member David Hall told on Friday: "The court case was one of the first legal challenges in the country faced by a Council attempting to pass over the management of some library services to the local community."

"Since that ruling, several Councils in England have in fact done this same thing very successfully. It is now becoming widely accepted that communities can play a direct role in running libraries."

"We would much rather have not had to spend £200,000 in legal costs and instead spent that money on frontline services, including the delivery of a sustainable future for the library service in Somerset."

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