THE announcement of the closure of a number of Hampshire libraries has been described at "disturbing".

Hampshire Unison has expressed anger and concern following the announcement from Hampshire County Council.

After a two-hour long debate, plans to close eight of the 48 county council-run libraries across Hampshire were given the green light.

A spokesperson said: "The scale of these cuts to Hampshire’s library service is both breathtaking and disturbing.

"Each library closure will have a major impact on the local community and the loss of these much-loved public spaces is a deeply worrying prospect for library staff too – dozens of whom will now be at risk of redundancy.

"Squeezed budgets have forced councils to make these short-sighted decisions. No local authority wants to cut the services it offers but with much less funding coming from Westminster, they’ve often had little choice. And it’s always vulnerable people and those least able to fend for themselves who suffer most.

"This is the sorry legacy of a decade of successive Conservative governments underfunding local authorities like Hampshire.”

Cllr Seán Woodward, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, said: “We want to provide the best library service we can within our financial means. We’ve had to find savings of £1.76 million from the library budget in line with savings that all County Council services must make, to bridge the funding gap faced by local authorities everywhere as demands for services rise, particularly in social care. The County Council is committed to looking after our most vulnerable residents, and spends over £1million every day on adult social care.

“We’ve worked hard to find new ways of working to minimise the impact of these changes on all those who use our libraries, and we have listened to their feedback from the consultation. Over 70% of respondents agreed with the need for Hampshire’s Library Service to adapt to meet the changing demands placed on it. Proposals to deliver efficiencies, generate additional income and explore different ways of delivering library services all received high levels of support, including from Library staff. The outcome is that Hampshire residents will continue to be well served across the county with 40 libraries maintained by the County Council and support offered to 12 others to become independent community libraries.

“The result of these changes is a high quality library service, one that is adapting to the needs of its customers, and that is relevant in a way that will improve literacy, life chances and wellbeing of Hampshire residents.”