SELF-STYLED library campaigner and MP hopeful Peter Cuthbertson has defended himself against allegations of hypocrisy after supporting cuts to library services in London.

The Westminster councillor was recently announced as the Conservative candidate for the upcoming general election in Darlington, where he lost out to Labour’s Jenny Chapman in 2015 by 3,158 votes.

His campaigning has largely focused on the battle to save the historic Crown Street Library, which is facing impending closure as a result of council budget cuts, which will see central library services moved into the Dolphin Centre.

Darlington-born Cllr Cuthbertson has now been accused of using it as a vote-winning “political football” while lending his support to cuts and changes to library services in Westminster, where he is a serving councillor.

There, the Conservative-led Westminster City Council has proposed removing £750,000 from funding to library services, the equivalent of more than 17 posts.

Cllr Cuthbertson admitted supporting the plans but denied hypocrisy, saying the “modest changes” to library services in Westminster would not have the same impact as cuts in Darlington as library spending is much higher in the wealthy borough.

The contentious changes, which could also see one of the Westminster's libraries moved to a leisure centre, are currently being challenged by residents.

Westminster City Labour councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said: "Peter Cuthbertson has been entirely silent about libraries and has voted every single time in favour of a budget that includes cuts to library services.”

In response, Cllr Cuthbertson said: “This has been a huge issue in Darlington that comes up on the doorstep regularly but I’ve never had anyone contact me as councillor over this.

“Westminster has excellent library provision and the changes are modest compared to Darlington, where library provision is quite poor in terms of how little is spent.”

Library campaigner and Liberal Democrat councillor Ann-Marie Curry accused Cllr Cuthbertson of using the plight of Crown Street Library for political gain.

She added: “It is hypocritical and he is using the campaign to raise his profile and gain votes because he knows Darlington residents are angry.

“The issue is becoming a political football when it should be about people.”

Cllr Cuthbertson denied the accusations and said he had been involved with the Crown Street campaign for more than a year, without knowing a general election was on the horizon.

Matthew Snedker, who is standing for the Green Party in Darlington, added: "The way that Cllr Cuthbertson has portrayed himself as a library campaigner in Darlington while cutting library provision on his home patch of Westminster can only damage his credibility as a candidate for MP."