LIBRARY users in Somerset are celebrating after council officers recommended that all services which had faced the axe should be reinstated.

Somerset County Council lost a High Court challenge from campaigners last year against its plans to cut funding from 11 libraries, reduce opening hours at others and scrap some of its mobile library routes.

A judge ruled the authority's consultation over the closures had been unlawful.

Now, council officers have recommended the authority reinstates all services to “ensure the council is compliant with the requirements of the court judgement”, meaning the axe has been lifted from centres including Priorswood in Taunton and Bishops Lydeard. The recommendation is expected to be rubber-stamped next week.

John Irven, from the Friends of Somerset Libraries, said: “We are very pleased indeed. It is the news everybody had been hoping for.

“It should be remembered that the council is not doing this out of the goodness of its heart - the court judgement said it has to.

"What we need to make sure of is that the council doesn't come back with a very similar package of cuts later in the year.”

Mr Irven said FoSL was happy to assist the council in finding cost savings which would not impact heavily on library users.

Bishops Lydeard parish councillor Mike Rigby said he was “thrilled” that the village's centre was no longer under threat of closure.

He said: “When the court ruling went against the council I was expecting it to simply re-run the consultation, rather than roll back entirely.

“Our library is a vital community facility. The idea that busy parents would be willing to drive or get the bus into Taunton to visit the library is unrealistic.”

The proposals also include spending £600,000 on new self-service machines at busy centres including Taunton and Wellington.

A final decision on the recommendations is expected next week, with increased opening hours at some centres potentially coming into effect from January 17.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “The decision to be taken on January 11 would confirm our actions to restore library services, in response to the Judicial Review judgment.

"The decision will also approve work to deliver self-service technology at some of our busiest libraries.

It would also approve the council's approach to deciding the future funding of the library service - that elected members should consider taking a fresh decision following a service review scheduled to start in April.”