CAMPAIGNERS’ hopes of reversing a controversial decision to axe five Bolton libraries look to have been dashed once and for all.

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

The council’s own figures later revealed that borrowing from the remaining libraries fell by almost a fifth between April and September last year, while the number of library visitors fell by almost a quarter.

Despite calls from objectors for the government to step in, last September culture minister Ed Vaizey said the Secretary of State was “not minded” to intervene — but asked for more evidence to be submitted from all parties.

But after considering the information Maria Miller, Secretary of State for culture, media and sport has now ruled out holding a local inquiry into the closures.

In a letter from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Mr Vaizey said: “Not every reduction in library provision will justify a local inquiry. In the present case, the Secretary of State’s view is that an inquiry is not appropriate.

“A local decision was fairly taken following a detailed consultation and impact assessment process.

“Good quality library services remain available and accessible to the local community, and there is no real doubt that Bolton continues to operate a comprehensive library service, more efficiently provided than before.”

He added: “Against this, the Secretary of State has noted that there were significant reductions in library usage figures in the six months following the closures.

“The secretary of state’s experience is that such figures tend to improve over time, once residents adjust to library changes.”

But library campaigners said they were “angry” with the decision.

Ian McHugh, secretary of the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, said: “It seems that such decisions on the future of local services are made in the comfort of Whitehall offices without any official bothering to step out and actually meet the people affected by the closures.

“There is a vast chasm between those struggling in deprived areas of towns such as Bolton and the faceless officials in the DCMS.”

A council spokesman said: “The council is pleased with the decision.

“We will now take the necessary time to consider its contents and any implications.”