TORY leaders at County Hall have decided to protect the future of three out of four threatened Chester libraries, but say one will still be closed.
The Liberal Democrats were unhappy the Conservative administration was proposing to shut facilities in Vicars Cross, Hoole and Upton, with a suggestion the Bishops High School library in Great Boughton could be closed to the public.
The Tory group is contemplating a package of savings in order to bridge a £15m funding gap in the county council budget.
This week county councillor Nora Dolphin, executive member for community services, revealed libraries at Upton, Vicars Cross and Great Boughton would stay open but Hoole library must still close.
Cllr Dolphin (Con, Weaver) said: 'While Chester has more than its fair share of small branch libraries, we have taken into account that all three are both undeniably well used and important community centres.'
She continued: 'In some respects the same case could be made for Hoole but sadly, we cannot justify the maintaining a static library, less than a mile away from two branch libraries and the main central library.
'Furthermore the area is served by a housebound service and a mobile library which visits elderly persons.'
She said the Hoole Road library was housed in outdated and inadequate wooden accommodation built in the 1950s and it would incur 'a wholly unjustifiable sum' to maintain.
'Any decision to close a branch library is regrettable but a balance has to be struck with the Council Tax burden in the light of the widely acknowledged inequitable grant Cheshire receives from central Government,' said the councillor.
'This represents a poor settlement for the county, in fact a shortfall of £15m for Cheshire's taxpayers.'
The Lib Dems, who have been petitioning to save the libraries, have denied accusations of 'scare-mongering' by the Tories for allegedly exaggerating the number of proposed library closures.
And county councillor Molly Hale (Hoole and Newton) is continuing the campaign to save Hoole library.
She said: 'We are not giving up and signatures and letters are still needed. The decision will not be final until February 16. The loss of Hoole's library would be another blow to the community following on from the closure of Kingsway High School.
'The library closure will affect hundreds of local people of all ages who may struggle to access alternative library facilities.
'It will be very difficult for parents with young children or older people to make the longer journey to the city centre and neither Vicars Cross nor Upton libraries are on bus routes easily accessible from Hoole.'