WITH decision day looming for six Southampton libraries their future was the subject of a fierce debate between Labour council chiefs and residents.

Sparks flew in a heated meeting where residents grilled the council's leisure chief with one branding her a "disgrace".

‎Labour cabinet member Satvir Kaur said she believed groups would take on the libraries and that the changes would create a "sustainable" future for the service.

Proposals to stop running the Cobbett Road, Burgess Road, Weston, Thornhill and Millbrook libraries as well as the mobile service will go before the council's cabinet next week.

The plans, which would see them close next year unless other groups or organisations take them on‎, would save the council £286,000 a year and cost six jobs.

Users of several of the threatened libraries gathered at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee to quiz Cllr Kaur last night.

She received a hostile response from some of them, with Denise Wyatt from Redbridge, speaking in support of keeping Millbrook Library open, calling her a "disgrace".

Others said closing the libraries would cause some of the city's most vulnerable residents would suffer most while some called on her to "be honest" about the real reason for stopping running them and saying the impact could be "horrifying".

Conservative finance spokesman John Hannides said closing them would be "probably the most savage and appalling set of proposals we have seen in a generation, it is nothing short of butchery" but she said the current situation was "like trying to put the library service on lifeboats when it's been on a sinking ship and there are Tory icebergs".

In response to questions from Conservative group leader Jeremy Moulton about whether she believed they would still be open in a year's time she said: "My current feeling is that in a year we will still have five community-led libraries".

And she was also quizzed on the future of the buildings if they did close, saying that the ambition was for them to remain "community hubs" but said she could not give a guarantee about what could happen to them.

Cllr Moulton also said that two libraries could be saved for the estimated £50,000 cost of maintaining the empty building.

Labour councillor Cathie McEwing also said she did not understand why the final decision was going just to the cabinet and not the full council for a full debate.

Cllr Kaur said examples elsewhere in the country such as Sheffield and Lewisham showed communities could successfully take on libraries, while saying community groups in Southampton managed facilities such as St James Park and Oaklands Community Pool.

‎She also said they had approached Hampshire County Council about sharing services but said: "they are not in a position to integrate", adding that there would be "no guarantee on the future of the libraries".