LIBRARY campaigners will tonight take their cuts battle to the heart of Newcastle’s civic centre.
Councillors will debate plans to axe 10 libraries following city-wide opposition.
Campaigners will present a 5,000-name petition calling on the council to rethink the cuts to libraries.
Groups across the city have united under the banner of Save Newcastle Libraries and will now address councillors in what is expected to be a packed-out chamber.
North East playwright and author Fiona Evans will lend her support to those fighting library closures by introducing the debate.
Newcastle City Council’s consultation on the proposed cuts ended last month and its leaders are now fine-tuning a budget which will see around £100m cut over three years, a mixture of Government grant reduction and rising costs and bills.
As part of this, 10 libraries will be closed and others merged.
Mark Tyers, from the Save Newcastle Libraries group, said there has been an “overwhelming” response from the public.
He said: “If you had told me even as recently as December that we would get 5,000 signatories I would have said that might be difficult, but people have been very, very supportive of this.”
Councillors, he added, will be told to look again at savings.
“Why is it proposed that 10 branch libraries should close rather than looking at alternatives such as reducing opening hours to make the savings?
“I understand that closing the City Library on Sundays would make a major contribution and the hours of other branches could be cut to make up the rest.”
Also backing the cuts fightback is petition creator Caroline Stringer. She said: “I am concerned in general that a Labour council is considering such sweeping cuts which will mainly damage the more disadvantaged Newcastle residents.
“But I have a particular concern about the proposed library closures which seem especially Draconian.
“Libraries are not just a “nice to have” option all about reading books, important as that is.
“They are essential in providing access to sources of information which allow people to take some control of their own lives.”
Petitions will also be handed in at the 6pm city centre meeting by those opposing swimming pool closures and cuts to care for disabled children.