LIBRARY users and community groups raised concerns at a Bury Council cabinet meeting, as councillors passed a motion to cement plans to close the majority of the borough’s libraries.

Portfolio holders moved to begin a public consultation period on the proposals for services in Bury.

But the public will only be able to have their say on two options — which one member of the public gallery criticised as Hobson’s choice.

Both options result in the closure of the majority of the borough’s libraries — the first option would save Bury Library and the archives, Prestwich Library and Ramsbottom Library, the second would save Radcliffe Library in addition to those.

Prestwich Cllr and Bury’s Lib Dem leader Tim Pickstone said: “We are very disappointed that the council is pushing ahead with closing so many libraries and without finding alternative ways that they could be kept open.

“Other councils are closing no libraries, using community groups and volunteers to keep small libraries open.

“We are worried that it will be the most vulnerable who will suffer most with these closures, those least able to travel and the most lonely not on that one.”

Gary Hardman, of the Seedfield Tenant and Resident Association, which works closely with Moorside Community Centre and Library, said the association feels “comfortable and empowered” when working with the library service.

“It not only gives us a place to provide the services but also security, guidance, help and advice which might not be available elsewhere,” he said.

“Collaborative events would not be possible without there being a local library, or without the library staff supporting.

“Looking at the report I think it is flawed, because it looks at membership not usage and ignores the local benefits of the local libraries.”

Mr Hardman proposed that the cabinet should consider a third option, which would mean closing two or more of Bury’s main libraries, saving money that way, and then developing more community libraries.

He added this would decentralise the library service and bring benefits closer to the heart of communities in tackling social issues like poverty and giving people access to social services.

In response, Bury Council leader Rishi Shori said the report could not be amended at this stage to include the proposed third option.

However, Cllr Shori said he would welcome Mr Hardman to submit his ideas as part of the public consultation and that they will of course be considered by the council.

Cllr Ian Gartside, leader of the Conservative group on Bury Council, voted against the proposals. He said he had spoken to residents who were “very shocked and upset”.

He added: “Also, if we’re looking at saving our most-efficient libraries we should look at what we’re trying to achieve,” adding that the libraries which are set to close are cheaper to run and maintain than the three or four main libraries which would be saved.

Cllr Sandra Walmsley, portfolio holder for strategic housing and support services, says it is an opportunity to enhance the borough’s library service.

She added: “We want to improve the service we have got at the moment,

“We are not providing an efficient service across all 14 libraries.

“We are aware that every community uses the libraries and will be working closely with all of them as to how we can support them.”