THE decision to axe one third of the town’s libraries — including his own local branch — could be a major issue for Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris in the local elections.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday and the Labour leader is defending his Halliwell seat, a position he has held for the last 20 years.

A major thorn in his side during the long-running libraries saga, which eventually saw five branch libraries closed, was Ian McHugh, secretary of the Save Bolton Libraries campaign.

Now, Mr McHugh, a Green Party candidate, will stand for election against Cllr Morris in Halliwell, where Oxford Grove Library closed in February. He said: “I have lived in Halliwell with my family for more than 20 years.

“Since last year, I have campaigned against the shameful decision of Bolton’s Labour council to close down Halliwell’s Oxford Grove Library.”

The libraries have been replaced by a self-service neighbourhood collection, with up to 800 books.

Cllr Morris points to the huge budget cuts the council has had to contend with from the Conservative-led coalition Government, for the axeing of the libraries.

But campaigners always maintained that there were other ways of keeping libraries open.

Cllr Morris said: “I hope that people have faith in me to vote Labour in troubled times.

“I’ve been a councillor in that area for the last 20 years.

“There have been vast improvements in that time, but I am not being complacent.

“Since the move of the library from Oxford Grove, the new book collection point at the Halliwell UCAN centre is open every day and has been used quite well.

“I’ve been on the doorstep and in the community and I took on board what people were saying and made sure the opening times for the new collection point were accessible.”