Library sales to backfire: Council cutbacks could be hampered by 150-year-old law

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Local councils considering selling off their libraries and museums could be halted by a little-known Victorian law, it has emerged.

Hundreds of British libraries are thought to be under threat as local authorities are forced to reduce their budgets as a result of government cuts to public services.

But the sales could be worthless due to an 150-year-old law that means profits must be returned to the original landowners.

The Literary and Scientific Institutions Act of 1854 was introduced to encourage Britain’s wealthiest families into giving their lands to charity to boost surrounding areas.

But the letter of the law could prevent councils from earning money from selling off their assets, according to property advisory firm DTZ.

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