A GROUP which opposed the closure of five Bolton libraries have hit back after communities secretary Eric Pickles branded campaigners “luvvies”.

Bolton was one of a number of towns and cities across the country to axe libraries last year as part of local government spending cuts.

Bolton Council axed a third of its 15 libraries between January and April 2012 — Astley Bridge, Oxford Grove, Heaton, Highfield, and Castle Hill — to save £407,000 as part of a wider £60 million package of spending cuts, with a total of 201 libraries having closed nationwide.

Bolton Council figures have since revealed a 19 per cent borough-wide drop in lending following the closures, while the number of visitors fell by 14 per cent.The Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (SBLC) fought the closures and has since sought legal advice and sent a 30-page dossier to the government.

In a recent House of Commons debate, historian Tristram Hunt — Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central — hit out at a recent £250 million government cash injection which saw cash awarded to town halls so they could maintain weekly bin collections, although Bolton’s bid for cash was unsuccessful.

Mr Hunt said: “In towns and cities across England local authorities are being forced to close museums, shut care homes and end library provision, but the government found £250 million to empty the bins more regularly.

“What kind of abysmal, Philistine, reactionary government put dustbins above library books.”

But Mr Pickles said: “The people who are putting dustbins above those things are people who care about the general service provided to the electorate.

“The honourable gentleman is a bit of a luvvie, so no doubt he is looking intensely at the drop in culture, but that is a matter for local decision, and he is wholly wrong.

“People should look at how an authority can get more money in by exploiting and using its cultural heritage.

“Frankly, he is just lining up a bunch of luvvies. He should listen a little bit more.”

Tom Hanley, chairman of SBLC said: “SBLC is not a group of ‘luvvies’ as Eric Pickles described library campaigners recently.

“We represent the widest cross-section of Bolton society, united in a recognition that libraries are lifelines for many who would be left further and further behind were they to disappear. In the present state of the economy we need more libraries, not less.”