Library cuts 'should not go ahead'

PUBLISHED: 17:30 04 January 2012

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(c) Adam Gault

COUNCILLORS have recommended that a series of library cuts should not go ahead after a High Court judicial review in November found them unlawful.

If the recommendations are approved, 11 libraries in Somerset will keep their funding, four mobile libraries will be reinstated and opening hours at 23 libraries will revert back to their previous times.

The report to Somerset County Council said that not reverting library services to their pre-February state would make it ‘highly likely the council would be held in contempt of court’.

It comes after 23 libraries had their hours cut by 20 per cent and 11 of the county’s 34 libraries including the one in Highbridge were told they would no longer be funded, instead being offered out to local groups.

The report also suggests that self-service facilities be introduced at several libraries including Burnham and Highbridge at a cost of £600,000.

The council had initially planned to scale back library services in Somerset to save £1.02million, a figure which the report states would no longer be achieved if the recommendations were approved.

The judicial review stated on November 16 that cutting the services was unlawful because the council ‘failed to meet its statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service for all those wishing to use it’, or to comply with its equalities duties and did not adequately consult the public.

A Somerset County Council spokesman said: “The key decision to be taken on 11 January would confirm our actions to restore library services, in response to the Judicial Review judgment. The decision will also approve the work, which was agreed as part of the recently quashed February 2011 decision to deliver self-service technology at some of our busiest libraries.

“It would also approve the Council’s approach to deciding the future funding and shape of the Library service – that elected members should consider taking a fresh decision following a service review which is currently scheduled to start in April 2012.”

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