A ROW has broken out over of the future of libraries across Stockton borough as the council looks to cut costs - with one councillor claiming it is like 'closing an accident and emergency unit'.

While there are no proposals to close any library, plans to reduce opening hours and merge them into other community buildings has caused outrage with Thornaby councillors.

Stockton Borough Council is planning to shut down the town's library on Westbury Street and move the facilities to the Riverbank Centre around 250m away.

However, Thornaby Independent councillor Steve Walmsley criticised the decision maintaining it was vital to keep the library in the heart of the community.

He said: "In an area where all reports state there is massive levels of deprivation, surely there is enough reason to keep it open where it is.

"To take something like the library out of the area is going to leave a big hole. The library is absolutely essential to for area - it would be a bit like closing an A&E at a hospital.

"Moving the library and all of its staff to a building on the peripherery would be an absolute nonsense."

The proposal, which had been subject to public consultation, was defended by Reuben Kench, the council's head of culture and leisure, at a cabinet meeting.

He said: "We are putting a staffed service in with the same expert staff. We are not sure what area of the building we are putting the library but we will be looking at using the biggest space available.

"We recognise there's a reduction but it is the only way we are going to be able tp take £400,000 out of the service."

Libraries throughout the borough are being merged into other council owned buildings in an attempt to reduce running costs and Council leader Bob Cook said officers were working hard to identify suitable alternatives.

He said: "We are looking at sharing buildings to reduce the cost of having of having to sustain them. What we are trying to do is make sure there is library services in the area where people will go."

A final decision will be made at the full council meeting on June 12.