SEVEN organisations have stepped forward eager to run six libraries under threat of closure in Southampton, it was revealed last night.

Southampton City Council cabinet member for leisure Councillor Satvir Kaur confirmed the groups have enquired about the running of five libraries and a mobile library.

But she was unable to disclose the organisations names because talks were still in a confidential stage.

The revelation came as controversial proposals for the council to stop running the libraries were discussed at last night's overview and scrutiny meeting.

Community groups and oppositions politicians battled to protect funding form the libraries in a heated debate.

As previously reported, the Conservative opposition has called in the Labour council's decision to stop running the libraries for further scrutiny.

They are unhappy 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.

Plans were 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 forcing their closure.

Cllr Kaur said seven groups had approached the council with at least one wanting to run more than one library.

But she said the decision to call in then proposals had caused delays in negotiations.

Cllr Kaur said she is "confident" all the libraries will continued on be open after March.

She said: "The reason we are doing this is to ensure we have a more sustainable future."

Conservative Cllr Jeremy Moulton called for the council to seek joint running of libraries with neighbouring authorities.

But Cllr Kaur said this failed to provide a long term solution as other councils are struggling with cuts.