The Surrey Library Action Movement (SLAM) has threatened legal action against Surrey County Council (SCC) over plans to turn libraries over to volunteers.

Staff at 10 libraries across Surrey, including Stoneleigh, Ewell Court and Tattenhams, are due to be replaced by volunteers later this year and the mobile library service will be withdrawn in a bid to save cash. Each library will be run by a core group of volunteers who will be given training by SCC with an additional experienced member of the council’s library team provided for at least 20 per cent of their opening hours.

But campaigners say it is not good enough. Lawyers acting on behalf of the group have sent a ‘pre-action’ letter to the council which ‘challenges the lawfulness of SCC’s decision making process’ and calls for an injunction and judicial review. Mike Alsop, chair of SLAM, said: "We have taken this step with great reluctance but we've been left with no choice given the council's unwillingness to consult with Surrey residents.

“SCC's plans will fatally undermine and lead to the closure of 10 local libraries, which are vital information centres as well as hubs for community cohesion, reading and literacy.

“We will not stand by and let this happen."

SLAM has enlisted the help of Public Interest Lawyers who were responsible for the successful legal challenge by Gloucestershire and Somerset library campaigners against their local authorities.

Somerset County Council and Gloucestershire County Council wanted to withdraw funding for 21 libraries, a decision which was ruled as 'unlawful' by a High Court Judge in November last year. A spokesperson for SCC said: "We have received a pre-action protocol letter from solicitors acting for SLAM which was faxed to us at 5.50pm on Friday, December 30, and is 16 pages long.

“We are currently considering its content."

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