AWARD-winning children’s author and libraries campaigner Alan Gibbons has condemned Bolton Council’s decision to axe libraries — calling it a “huge mistake”.

Mr Gibbons visited Bolton to urge people to fight public sector cutbacks.

The writer, who was part of the campaign to save Bolton’s libraries, was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of shop stewards — just weeks after it was revealed that the controversial closure of five Bolton libraries has led to a massive drop in borrowing across the borough.

Bolton Council has axed a third of its 15 libraries — Astley Bridge, Oxford Grove, Heaton, Highfield, and Castle Hill — to save £407,000 as part of a wider £60 million package of spending cuts.

Mr Gibbons told The Bolton News: “It was a huge mistake to shut the libraries when there is a massive problem with literacy.

“If they have any sense they will reopen them.

“In Japan, which has a worse economic situation than the UK, they have more librarians than we have in the UK because they know that literacy is the way out of recession.

“When I was working as a teacher, we had a new library, we had 100 per cent of children gaining the required level four in the tests. Five years previously we only had 57 per cent.”

He added: “Libraries bring communities together — for some it is the only time they have social interaction.”

Mr Gibbons, who says he is from a working class background, said his aspirations to become a teacher and later an author were through visiting his public library.

He urged people to fight the cuts to the public sector, describing the current Government as the most unrepresentative he had ever seen, with many millionaires and Oxbridge graduates who are enjoying sports facilities while cutting them for the working people. Mr Gibbons said: “The UK is the most unequal country in Western Europe.” He added: “I don’t like attending meetings or lobbying.

I’d rather be somewhere else but it is necessary.”

Matt Kilsby, chairman of Bolton Unison, described the talk as inspirational in opposing the cuts.

He said: “It was very inspiring. We need to lobby—five people taking part is better than not lobbying.

“That speech has got us off on the best possible start.”