Legal costs for library services could rise

LEGAL costs for the judicial review of library services have totalled just under �70,000 according to Somerset County Council – and councillors believe this figure could rise.

The legal procedure overturned the council’s decision to make changes to libraries to cut costs - including closing Highbridge’s facility - because it did not meet European diversity legislation.

The price for the council’s legal expenses came to �24,573.38 for internal solicitors, �44,034.08 for external counsels’ fees and �135 for court fees.

The council has also been ordered to cover the other side’s legal costs but these have not yet been determined.

Sam Crabb, leader of the Somerset Liberal Democrat group, said: “No one really knows the actual cost of the judicial review yet.

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“The legal costs of the members of the public who took the judicial review are not yet known, but combined with the figures that we do know, the overall figure is going to be well in excess of �600,000.

“It would be good to see a press release from the conservative administration giving the true figures when they are eventually known.”

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The court required the council to reinstate 20 per cent of library opening hours which were removed from 23 libraries and continue to finance the 11 libraries that were due to have funding stopped by April this year.

The council has stated the annual cost of maintaining services in those 11 libraries will be about �240,000.

Councillor John Woodman said: “It’s unfortunate as we were going to be in a position where we could have saved �1.34million and kept libraries in community hands. Now we still have to find that money.

“We fell through on one small point and we lost it all, otherwise we would have delivered a comprehensive service.”

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