A councillor has called for a halt to the sale of a library building in Calderdale while a complaint about the circumstances of its closure is considered.

Hipperholme Library is due to go under the hammer in an online auction by Leeds-based Pugh, from 10am next Tuesday, July 19.

The Leeds Road building has a guide price of around £120,000.

Calderdale Council agreed to dispose of the building along with some other library and public buildings, following the publication of its Future Council report in autumn 2020.

The proposals were opposed by opposition councillors.

Part of the Future Council project is for the authority to dispose of parts of its land and buildings portfolio to both save running costs and, if sold, increase revenue to offset severe budget pressures.

But in public question time at the Cabinet’s meeting this week a ward councillor warned the issue might not be straightforward.

Coun George Robinson (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said Calderdale Conservatives have submitted a formal complaint to the Secretary of State for the Department of  Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) arguing that the council’s Labour Cabinet had not properly consulted the public immediately before agreeing to close the buulding – one of eight libraries across Calderdale – in November 2020 under the Future Council proposals.

The Secretary of State is now investigating whether the council can discharge its statutory duties in providing a comprehensive and efficient library service and if the Minister finds against the council, a public inquiry will be launched, he said.

Coun Robinson said in light of what might transpire, the library building sale should be halted until the position was clear.

If the DCMS found the council to be at fault the council could avoid a public inquiry by withdrawing library closures and undertaking a consultation – but they would not be able to do this if the building had been sold, said Coun Robinson.

“Will Cabinet remove the library from the auction until the DCMS have completed their investigations?” he said.

Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said she would provide Coun Robinson with a written reply based on the legal advice Cabinet had received about the issue.

Coun Lynn did not give an undertaking that the building would be pulled from the auction.

After the meeting Coun Robinson said there has only ever been one such public inquiry, because in that position most local authorities rescind their library closures to avoid incurring costs and reputational damage.

The council invited expressions of interest in taking over the running and upkeep of buildings it deemed surplus to requirements, but otherwise they are open to sale.

Interested groups are in the process of taking on responsibility for a number of the buildings, for example, Heptonstall Museum, some through community asset transfers whereby the council retains ownership but the groups run and upkeep them – the groups, often voluntary, have to draw up business and operational plans for the buildings.

The building, offering around 526.9 square metres (5,669 square feet) of space,  is Lot 0140 in that day’s online auction, and additional costs and fees will apply over the winning bid price, say the auctioneers.