THE county council has raised £237,145 from its rare and old book auctions after calling a halt to the sales following withering criticism of the process.

The figure is the total amount raised following a series of book auctions.

In the final sale, 30 lots of Worcestershire County Council books, mostly on travel and topography, were sold at Dominic Winter auction house in Gloucestershire yesterday.

High estimates on the books had auction experts expecting £16,000 on all the lots but brisk bidding raised £18,770, even though four lots failed to sell.

Critics have blasted the council’s decision to sell the books saying they were done without public knowledge nor full discussions with interested parties.

The council claims the auctions are to streamline book stocks ready for a move from Worcester’s Foregate Street library to the Hive in the Butts, saying they were under a legal duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. However, they yesterday suspended further sales, pledging to discuss any public concerns.

Auction house experts who catalogued the lots said that many of the books would have cost more than their value to rebind, and they were only of any value to collectors and speculative bidders.

But critics including Worcester Civic Society remain unsettled at the way the sales were done.

Stephen Inman, civic society chairman, said: “If these books have no relevance and can be sold, then it begs the question why have we had them for the past 100 years or more?

"The fact is they were either bought or people have handed them over for the benefit of people in Worcestershire and now they have been sold.

“They could have been donated to the university, as universities are always looking for good books and well-stocked libraries.”

A county council spokesman said: “There is no statutory requirement regarding book stocks either being retained or disposed of within the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.”