THE libraries “fiasco” could cost Somerset County Council over £600,000 this year, it emerged this week.

The bill includes legal fees and reinstating library services County Hall wanted to axe.

The county was forced to retreat after a Judicial Review at the High Court ruled the cutbacks illegal.

The authority had planned to close 11 libraries in April and already reduced opening hours in 23 others and scrapped four mobile libraries.

The legal battle cost the county council £68,742.46 in internal solicitors' and external counsel fees; £135 court costs; and £2,590.78 in travel and accommodation - totalling £71,468.24.

It must also pay the successful objectors' legal fees.

And it must find £240,000 in annual costs for not closing any libraries; £205,000 for restoring previous opening hours; £120,000 in annual running costs for the mobile libraries - totalling £565,000 annually.

Cllr Ross Henley (LibDem) said: “I'm angry at the true costs of court case fiasco.

“It's an utter shambles that's so far cost over £600,000 and will cost more once we know the amount of costs awarded to the objectors.

“This could all have been avoided if the (ruling) Conservatives had listened and learnt from good practice in other county councils and not closed libraries.”

A county council spokesman said the libraries policy aimed to save £1.35million as part of £75million cutbacks over three years.

He added: “Work is underway to reinstate previously reduced opening hours in 23 libraries and reintroduce four discontinued mobile libraries.

“Funding for 11 libraries that had been planned to end by April will also continue.”

Apart from the council's and its opponents' legal fees, the £565,000 were annual running costs and “not new costs”