A SHOWDOWN on the future of Bolton’s libraries is to take place, which campaigners say could be the last chance to save them.

Leaders from the three major political parties as well as the leader of the Save Bolton Libraries Campaign will debate the planned closures of five libraries in front of a “Question Time” style audience.

The debate at Bolton Central Library on Thursday, September 15, will be chaired by The Bolton News’ deputy editor Lynn Ashwell.

Ian McHugh, secretary of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, said: “We think this debate is very important “There were six petitions with more than 15,000 signatures but for whatever reason that didn’t prompt a real and proper debate.

“This is people’s real chance to have their say on libraries and I hope the council takes people’s views on board.”

Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris, Tory chief Cllr John Walsh, deputy Liberal Democrat leader David Wilkinson, Alan Johnson of the Green Party and Mr McHugh and a speaker from UNISON will all be on the panel.

Councillors rejected Tory proposals on the libraries at a meeting of the full council last week.

Cllr Walsh said he was disappointed councillors voted against his ideas for keeping libraries open by using volunteers and setting up charitable trusts.

He added: “Clearly we have tried to be positive and show there are alternatives.

Given that Labour councillors want to keep their own libraries open, I was disappointed they voted against these ideas.

“I’m sure this debate will show that people feel very strongly about the libraries and that the council must look at alternatives.”

Libraries at Astley Bridge, Highfield in Farnworth, Oxford Grove in Halliwell, Heaton and Castle Hill in Tonge Moor, have been earmarked for closure in a bid to save £400,000.

The council wants to replace them with neighbourhood collection points.

Cllr Wilkinson said: “The debate is stifled as we have only got three options and none of them are brilliant.

“We are not having the debate that members of the public want, which is how we can have a fully fledged library service.”

The meeting will be held at 7pm.

People will be able to submit questions for the panel prior to the debate.

● AUTHORS and playwrights are supporting the campaign to save five Bolton branch libraries from closure.

Ahead of next week’s public showdown with councillors over the future of the town’s libraries, there will be an initial meeting at 7pm this Thursday at Bolton Central Library Lecture Theatre.

Confirmed speakers include local best-selling author Ruth Hamilton, award winning children’s writer Alan Gibbons and local playwright Les Smith, who penned sellout play “And Did Those Feet” at the Octagon Theatre.

Save Bolton Libraries Campaign chairman Tom Hanley said: “Questions or contributions from the floor will be very welcome.

“We hope to stimulate a lively discussion on how we can save our threatened libraries, as well as provide an update on the campaign so far.”