Hampshire County Council has revealed it intends to close eight of its 48 council-run libraries and reduce the opening hours of those remaining by an average of 20%.
Up to 10 libraries had been earmarked for closure at the start of the year in a bid to make savings of £1.76m, plans which were opposed by the likes of authors Neil Gaiman and David Nicholls as part of the Hampshire Authors for Libraries group, with a public consultation receiving responses from more than 20,000 people.
Under the new plan, the council hopes to achieve the same savings, between making savings of £340,000 through the eight closures and £775,000 through reducing opening hours of remaining libraries by 20%.
The eight libraries shutting are in Blackfield, Lyndhurst, Fair Oak, South Ham, Elson, Horndean, Lee-on-the-Solent and Odiham. Two libraries which had previously been under threat, Chineham library in Basingstoke and Emsworth library in Havant, are to remain open.
The council said the new plan would aim to provide "the best possible library service within our means". The plan puts 50 jobs at risk but the council has said it hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies.
The authority is also preparing to withdraw its support to four community libraries.
Councillor Keith House, leader of the opposition, told the Southern Daily Echo: "This is a devastating blow for 12 communities around Hampshire, alongside reductions in hours across the County. It shows the Conservative Party’s mismanagement of public finances in one of the wealthiest countries of the world that cannot now even afford to properly maintain a library service."
Councillor Sean Woodward, executive member for recreation and heritage at the county council, said the authority faced "£110 million of unplanned costs and losses" due to coronavirus. He added: "It is important in planning library services to recognise changed circumstances as physical book borrowing drops and new services are introduced to share the printed word. We have listened to over 21,000 respondents and have made positive changes to our proposals as a result."
Formal approval is set for 28th July and the changes are to be put into effect by the end of the year.