CAMPAIGNERS battling to save threatened libraries in Southampton have handed over two 500-name petitions to city leaders.

They are demanding a guaranteed long-term future for Burgess Road Library amid fears it could fall victim to savage cuts.

And they are also concerned over the future of Cobbett Road Library in Bitterne.

Their appeal comes after branches across the city received a short-term reprieve this year that would have seen some of their hours slashed by nearly 50 per cent.

Southampton’s Labour administration decided to make £100,000 available to lessen cuts to opening hours across the city after receiving a £5.8m windfall.

But that cash was a one-off and users are seeking reassurances that next year’s budget will not reinstate the drastic cuts they feel are “closure by stealth”.

It is feared that if the hours are run down branches will become less viable and vulnerable to closure.

As part of the reprieve Burgess Road Library has seen its hours cut from 32 to 29 instead of the originally proposed 17.5.

Campaigner Dr Susanna Sherwin said: “The extra money is just a stopgap and we need to know the cuts will not happen next year.

“They need to know how essential libraries are.”

Cllr Warwick Payne, the housing and leisure boss, said he was ready to sit down with users and library staff to work out a way of maintaining services beyond this year.

He said: “We recognise the value of libraries which is why when extra money became available in the budget that libraries were rightly the first thing that we decided to put the cash into.

“In terms of the future of the services, the extra money we are putting into them buys us some breathing space so we can look for any further savings that can be made without compromising the service itself.”

Campaign group Friends of Cobbett Road Library handed over their 500-name petition to Cllr Payne on Saturday to coincide with a National Library Day event there.

The city council budget will be set on Wednesday when councillors will finally decide how they are going to plug a £20m black hole – and which services will suffer as a result.