Library campaigners in Somerset threaten legal action

Library campaigners in Somerset threaten legal action

<p>A group of library campaigners in Somerset has threatened the local County Council with legal action over its decision to cut library services. The concerned locals have demanded clarification from the council into whether its actions place it in &quot;breach of their statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service&quot; and have called for the consultation into library closures to be suspended.<br /><br />&quot;If a satisfactorary reply is not forthcoming from the council legal action will start,&quot; the residents said.<br /><br />The county council&#39;s library budget has been cut by &pound;1.4m and 20 of the 34 libraries in Somerset face closure. A series of consultation events are being held over proposed library closures in Somerset.<br /><br />It is not clear if the council is obliged to seek legal advice over the interpretation of the act. Culture minister Ed Vaizey has said recently that the word &quot;efficient&quot; used in the 1964 Public Libraries Act meant that cuts could be necessary in light of the spending review. He said: &quot;When the funding available decreases it is inevitable that to stay efficient authorities will need to make changes to their library service.&quot; But library campaigners insist that the service must still remain &quot;comprehensive&quot;.</p><p>For the Somerset group Steve Ross, from Wiveliscombe said: &quot;Under the rules for Judicial Review and to avoid unnecessary legal costs we need to clarify the exact nature of the issues we want addressed with Somerset County Council. The information available to the public is unclear. We will explain our position and wait for their reply. While we are waiting we will be asking for a legal undertaking that the current library consultation&nbsp;will be&nbsp;suspended and that no further decisions on the future of the library service will be made by the Cabinet or Council until the legality of the&nbsp;position is clarified. <br />&nbsp;<br />&quot;It would be a shocking waste of taxpayers&nbsp;money&nbsp;for the council to rely on decisions made and then have to start again because those decisions&nbsp;were found to be unreasonable by a judge. We hope our action will save Somerset time and money in the long run by providing the council with an opportunity to stop and reflect on decisions made as well as to consider&nbsp;available alternatives&quot;.<br />&nbsp;<br />&quot;The one thing Somerset really can&#39;t afford now&nbsp;is wasteful mistakes&nbsp;from it&#39;s decision makers&quot;.</p>