IT’S decision day on the future of six Southampton libraries.

City council bosses will today decide whether to stop running six of the facilities from April next year.

And while they say they are confident groups will come forward to run them there are fears that it could mean the end for some of the city’s most loved community facilities.

Proposals to close Cobbett Road, Burgess Road, Millbrook, Weston and Thornhill libraries, as well as the mobile service, first surfaced almost a year ago when a review into their future was launched.

Consultation on the proposals took place until March this year, and the final proposals – which would see the council cease running all six libraries – were published earlier this month.

It comes at a time when cash-strapped Labour bosses are looking to meet a £90m gap in the city’s finances over the next four years, having already had to find £70m of savings and axing hundreds of jobs in the process.

If approved at tonight’s cabinet meeting, the council could save £286,000 a year with the cost of six jobs, although it may cost as much as £177,000 to set them up for use by other community groups.

Daily Echo: Cobbett Road Library.

Over the past week Labour council chiefs have been at pains to stress that bids to take on the running of all five library buildings are fully expected from community groups and organisations.

Labour leisure chief Satvir Kaur told a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny management committee last week that she was “confident” all five would stay open from April 1 next year, pointing to areas elsewhere in the country where groups had successfully taken on closure-threatened libraries.

She told the meeting that 80 per cent of books and 90 per cent of computer use came from the other six library buildings that would remain open – Central, Bitterne, Shirley, Lordshill, Woolston and Portswood.

And she also said the city would still have an “efficient” library service, hitting out at the Conservative Government for continuing to slash local authority budgets and force the need for cuts.

However, her Conservative opponents have said the annual £286,000 saving could easily have been found elsewhere, while opposition leader Jeremy Moulton said said that two libraries could be saved for the estimated £50,000 cost of maintaining the empty building.

The proposals have already been met with dismay by groups and residents who have used the libraries, including television naturalist and Springwatch presenter Chris Packham who accused council bosses of a “sad oversight” in failing to invest in libraries that could help to educate and entertain thousands of children and adults.

Dr Wendy Leeks, who spoke in support of Burgess Road Library at last week’s scrutiny meeting, said: “If this library closes the effect, particularly on the young people in that community, will be devastating and we strongly, strongly urge that further consideration is given to the future of the library.”

And Cobbett Road Annaliese Walker accused the council of “reducing the vital contribution to early learning and education across the city”.

Tonight the council’s cabinet will vote whether to continue running the libraries or not, although the scrutiny committee has recommended that they delay a decision until the matter can go before full council.