FIVE libraries in Southampton will close unless community groups come forward to take them on.

Cash-strapped council bosses will next week take a decision whether to stop running five libraries and the mobile library from next year.

And while they say they are "optimistic" groups will come forward to run them, opponents have attacked them as "irresponsible" saying they could deprive thousands of people of cherished community hubs.

A review into the future of Cobbett Road, Burgess Road, Millbrook, Weston and Thornhill libraries was launched last year, with the council looking to plug a £90m gap in the city's finances by 2018/19.

The review sparked a series of campaigns, with more than 2,000 people signing petitions to save Cobbett Road and Burgess Road libraries, while television naturalist Chris Packham, who grew up in Southampton and used Cobbett Road as a youngster, called on the council to think again.

Closing the libraries would save the council £286,000 a year while six jobs would be lost.

However it could cost the council £170,000 to stop running the libraries and set them up to be run by community groups.

Labour council leaders also said the review would allow the council to develop a library service which was "comprehensive and efficient, modern, creative, innovative and inclusive, financially sustainable and reflects the changing needs of the Southampton community".

In response to the review, 7,706 people responded to the consultation, with 57 per cent saying that the library service needs to change to meet future demands.

However 783 residents said they would have to stop using libraries if the six facilities were closed.

Council leader Simon Letts said: "We do make the recommendation with a heavy heart but it is also an opportunity because in other parts of the country people have knuckled down and nearly every library in this situation has found another user who has come in and taken over and in many cases have got a better service than the council used to offer.

"I'm optimistic that by the end of the process we will end up with potentially a better service than we have now.

"It's a risk but a risk that we think is worth taking."

He said the council had received some "informal" approaches about taking on libraries, and council leisure chief Satvir Kaur said going ahead with the plans would still allow the city to have an "efficient" library service.

However community and political leaders say they do not believe any group will be able to take the libraries on, meaning they will close by next April.

Conservative opposition leader Jeremy Moulton said: "It sounds like the consultation has come to nothing and the threat of closure is becoming a reality which is I think what everyone expected.

"Not only will half of the city's libraries close but people will also lose community centres where they go to socialise.

"It's not just about borrowing books, it's about being a focal point for the community."

He said his party would have kept the libraries open by merging library service with Hampshire's and sharing other services with other authorities.

Independent anti-cuts councillors Don Thomas said: “Cutting Southampton Library Services is indefensible, paradoxically Labour Councillors has its fair share of educator’s teachers, ex-teachers, even retired teachers, all should know a lot better yet there has not been a whimper from any of them.

"They should hang all their heads in shame, they are all loyally enforcing library cuts rather than fighting them.

"This is the death of the library service one cut and one library at a time, it might not stop until Southampton Libraries are all closed, what a shameful Labour legacy”.

And city library campaigner Calvin Smith, said: "I think it's irresponsible for the pennies they are going to save in comparison to their budget, they have refused to meet even halfway in terms of providing some funding.

"I am sure there are groups that can come forward but it's about running a building and I'm sure people would want to help but you need a lot of capital to run the buildings and pay for things such as electricity, gas and the rest of it.

"It's just cut, cut cut and blame everyone else. They are massive community hubs."