A COUNCILLOR told campaigners who took Darlington’s council to the high courts in their battle to save a historic library that to subsequently complain about the authority paying legal fees was “silly”.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet members on Tuesday saw Cllr Stephen Harker address complaints made about the costly nature of a legal case centring on the closure-threatened Crown Street Library.

Using legal aid, campaigners have brought a case against the council in the hope of saving the much-loved facility, which has been earmarked for closure as part of the authority’s far-reaching Medium Term Financial Plan.

Councillors voted in favour of closing the library and moving the majority of its resources to the Dolphin Centre, with the plans aiming to provide a modernised service while saving money.

The fiercely opposed proposals have been repeatedly delayed and are now on hold pending a judicial review which will scrutinise the council’s consultation processes.

Campaign group The Friends of Darlington Libraries have repeatedly called upon the authority to drop the case and enter into discussions with them in a bid to find a way of keeping a facility at Crown Street.

Members of the public and campaigners have also voiced concern about the amount of money being spent on taking the case to the high court, with the council forced to appoint a QC and a barrister to defend them.

In response to the issue, Cllr Harker said: “It has been bandied about that if we stop the library case, we’d stop these legal fees.

“It is a cheek that this is being thrown at us by residents who are protesting about us having to stump up legal fees.

“If there is a dispute about something, then solicitors or lawyers will make a profit out of it.

“To throw that at us, to complain about us having to pay legal fees is being a bit silly – you have to accept that if there’s a dispute, somewhere along the line solicitors have to be paid.”

When recently asked by The Northern Echo how much the authority is spending in legal fees, the council did not provide figures but Cllr Nick Wallis said that the delays caused by the case would halt potential savings of £33,000 a month from the time that the plans were originally scheduled for implementation.

Campaigners took to the floor at the cabinet meeting on Tuesday night to ask the council if a recently announced £4.4m funding pot could be used to keep the library at Crown Street.

Cllr Nick Wallis said that a public consultation would help the council to identify priorities for the money as he highlighted areas including public safety and street cleaning.

For more information about the consultation, which runs from now until January 24, visit darlington.gov.uk.