A SHARE of a £4.4m funding pot made available by a North-East council should be used to save a historic library, say campaigners.

Last week, Darlington Borough Council announced that “prudent financial planning and cost savings” had led to the authority building up the significant sum.

A public consultation into how the money should be spent will be held in the near future, with the council expected to suggest areas of priority for the funds.

Those fighting to save the Crown Street Library say that the facility could be saved for at least five years with just a fraction of the sum available.

Currently the subject of a costly legal battle, the building faces closure as a result of contentious proposals to cut and change library services. Under the plans, the majority of the library’s resources would be transferred to the Dolphin Centre while Cockerton Library would be run by volunteers. The town’s mobile library service has already been axed.

Approved by the council despite widespread opposition, the proposals have been delayed repeatedly and are now on hold pending the resolution of a judicial review.

In October, Cllr Nick Wallis – the council’s lead for the libraries project – said the delay to the proposals because of the legal case would incur costs that could impact on services including street cleaning.

On Friday, he said he had not been aware of the £4.4m funding pot when he made the comments and, when asked if the money could be used to keep a library service at Crown Street, he said that the council’s suggestions for how the £4.4m could be spent would be likely to centre on safety and cleanliness in the town.

Cllr Wallis said: “But ultimately, it is for the people of Darlington to set out their priorities and if they are different, then that is what the public consultation is all about."

He urged "anyone interested in the future of the borough" to attend a cabinet meeting taking place on Tuesday, December 12 that will hear a summary of the council's current financial position.

Paul Howell, of the Friends of Darlington Libraries, called on the council to drop the legal case in light of the £4.4m and to devote a “fraction of the sum” to saving Crown Street Library, saying: “The council has referred to this as a small amount of money but it is significant and could make a big difference in the town. It would take a small percentage of that £4.4m to keep the library at Crown Street for the next five years.They could spend more on street cleaning services to make the town look nice and still save the library.”

The cabinet meeting, open to all, will be held at Darlington's town hall from 5pm.