“A CONFLICT of interest” over the fate of Darlington’s Crown Street Library will haunt the town’s local authority in years to come, a councillor has warned.

If Darlington Borough Council’s contentious plans to cut and alter the town’s library services are approved, the historic Grade II building will close and some of its resources will be moved to the Dolphin Centre.

Following such a decision, the potential fate of the building and what would happen to any proceeds if it is sold, would lie in the hands of trustees – recently identified as members of the council’s own cabinet.

A vote to close the building last year had to be withdrawn after it became apparent members of Darlington Borough Council were not its trustees and could not legally make that decision.

The council conducted research after campaigners uncovered a statutory declaration that suggested a covenant existed stipulating that the property must be used “for the purposes of a public library forever”.

After consulting with the Charities Commission and researching land ownership documents, the council claimed no such covenant existed but said the land was held in trust for the people of Darlington.

In a move that has attracted much ire from campaigners, the council’s own cabinet was then named trustee for the Crown Street building.

At a meeting of the authority’s efficiency and resources scrutiny committee, independent councillor Kevin Nicholson said the situation represented a clear conflict of interest that could haunt the authority in the future.

Having acted as a trustee for charitable organisations himself, Cllr Nicholson said any potential conflicts of interest should always be declared and taken seriously in decision-making processes.

Trustees are expected to act in the best interests of a charity but Cllr Nicholson said they could not do this if they were closing the library.