CAMPAIGNERS have called for a Government inquiry into the potential closure of six libraries in Southampton.

The city council will cease running the five buildings and mobile service next year but council chiefs say they believe groups will come forward to take them on.

However campaigners have now called on Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale to intervene, saying the council is breaching its duty to residents by not running the libraries.

Plans to close Cobbett Road, Burgess Road, Thornhill, Weston and Millbrook libraries, as well as the mobile service, were rubberstamped earlier this year.

Labour council chiefs insist they are not closing any of the libraries, that changes are necessary to create a "sustainable" future for the city's libraries and that groups have expressed interest in running all five of the threatened library buildings.

The move will save the council £286,000 a year and cost six jobs.

Campaigners say they fear the move will result in the closure of the facilities as it will not be viable for them to run them.

In their letter calling for a Government inquiry they say the council would be "in breach of its obligations to provide a library service which is comprehensive and efficient...for all persons desiring to make use thereof", under the Public Libraries Act 1964.

They say the areas surrounded by the libraries are among the most deprived in the country, with Millbrook ranked 11,919th out of 12,660 areas in the Church Urban Fund's poverty index and Thornhill 11,875th.

And they also claim that the council's consultation over the review was "biased and therefore unfair" and that not running the libraries may breach Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights that ensures all children have a right to education.

The letter also contains statements from a number of library users who describe them as "lifelines" whose loss would have a "major impact" on many people's quality of life.

Conservative Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith has supported their call, saying: "I believe the council should have done more and can do more to support these libraries to ensure they stay open."

"It just does not seem right to threaten closure if an alternative provider is not found in a relatively short few months."

Daily Echo: Campaigners in Southampton

Labour culture chief Satvir Kaur responded, saying the review meant the council "could not justify those libraries due to the usage and cost", saying that consideration of poverty was given "double the importance" in the review but the shortlisted libraries had still come bottom of the rankings.

She added: "We can no longer afford to fund a lot of things and I think it is extremely hypocritical of the likes of Royston Smith to say 'don't bring politics into it' when it's politics that is the reason we are having to look at this and it's Central Government cuts that are causing extra issues of deprivation."