THE future of six libraries in Southampton will be the subject of fierce debate today.

The controversial proposals will go back before councillors, despite having been given the green light last month.

Labour council leaders approved the move to stop running five libraries and the mobile service, but their Conservative opponents called it in for further scrutiny.

They say they are not happy about a lack of information on the groups which the council says have expressed interest in taking on the five libraries.

A long-term review into the futures of Cobbett Road, Millbrook, Thornhill, Weston, Burgess Road and the mobile libraries was launched more than a year ago.

Earlier, plans were put forward and then approved by Labour civic chiefs to stop running all of the facilities, with community groups invited to take the five buildings on.

It has proven controversial with opponents fearing groups will not be able to realistically run libraries and that it means they will close.

Labour council leader Simon Letts and his cabinet member for leisure, Satvir Kaur, insisted at a series of meetings that they were not closing the libraries with Cllr Kaur saying she is “confident” the libraries will remain open and that 99 per cent of residents will still be within one and a half miles of a council-run libraries.

However, despite saying that 57 per cent of residents agreed with them in a consultation that the library service needed to change, they have been accused of ignoring the suggestions of residents to keep them maintained by the council using other forms of funding.

Television naturalist and BBC Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has also criticised the proposals, which could save the council £286,000 a year, but cost six jobs.

They are being called on to provide more details about the expressions of interest they have received, with the decision being called in for further debate by the overview and scrutiny management committee.

Daniel Fitzhenry, chairman of the committee and deputy leader of the Conservative opposition, said last month that he had called it in because “we don’t think there has been sufficient acknowledgement of what the replacement service will be and there hasn’t been sufficient information on that. It’s almost as though they are saying ‘we’re going to shut them and hope someone will come along to run them’."

“We fundamentally disagree with the decision and we wouldn’t be doing it.”

A demonstration against both the library plans and other cuts is set to take place outside the Civic Centre before the meeting.

The “Save our Services” event has been organised by Southampton People’s Assembly Against Austerity and union members from Unite and Unison, and takes place from 12.30-1.30pm.