SOUTHAMPTON civic chiefs have appealed for community groups to come forward to take over five libraries set to be closed by the council.

It is the latest twist in a long-running dispute between the council and campaigners over the future of Cobbett Road, Burgess Road, Thornhill, Weston and Millbrook libraries.

The council announced it would no longer fund the services earlier this year as part of cost-cutting measures, prompting a series of community protests.

But councillors have been keen for community groups to take over their management and have today launched an information pack for organisations who wish to register an interest.

And it has teamed up with British Gas, which is offering a £25,000 grant towards the costs of Thornhill, Millbrook or Weston libraries.

The council is also providing a community package to support any groups that step forward, enabling them to retain the books, furniture and equipment in the library, offer computer sessions using the council’s IT software, sublet space and receive training, guidance and support from a council employee.

Cllr Satvir Kaur, cabinet member for Communities, Culture and Leisure said: "Southampton will continue to have an efficient and effective library service in the city with six fully funded libraries across the city. I remain confident that the five remaining libraries will continue to serve their communities as community led libraries.

“I urge interested community groups, volunteers, not-for-profit and faith organisations to contact us for an information pack which tells them everything they need to know at this stage and what they need to do next.

"I and my team are happy to meet with any interested groups to help explain the process and answer any questions.

“I’d also like to say a huge thank you to British Gas for their very generous offer, which combined with the benefits of our community package will ensure a better offer for interested parties.

"I look forward to working with our communities to make this process a success."

British Gas is working with the council to transform 1,500 homes across the city and make them warmer and more energy efficient.

David Young, managing director of British Gas Energy Efficiency, added: “We’re really pleased to offer this funding for library services in Southampton.

"It’s part of our commitment to support communities across the city, as we begin our joint project with the council to make around 1,500 homes warmer and more energy efficient.”

Organisations are invited to run the library services for up to 24 years, with a five-year minimum term.

A question and answer session will take place on October 7 by invitation only for those who express a genuine interest.

For more details or to obtain an information pack email