MORE than 7,500 signatures were collected opposing the potential closure of Ross-on-Wye library.

Members of the Ross Library Development Group went to Herefordshire Council offices in Plough Lane today to give the petition of 7,639 signatures to council leader, Tony Johnson.

The signatures were collected in the streets of Ross and online following the announcement that the council were looking at the possibility of closing the library in Cantilupe Road, as well as Belmont and Leominster.

Jan Falkiner, who handed in the petition and who is chair of the Ross group, said: "I do feel that they [the council] has been very surprised by the response to the library proposals.

"I would really like to emphasise the message that libraries are about so much more than books."

She said Ross library provides an important IT service for people from all walks of life, including homeless people applying for accommodation, job centre users and tourists to the area.

Mrs Falkiner said there is also a well-used meeting room and it provides help to parents with groups for babies, toddlers and pre-school children.

Virginia Morgan, Howard Eldridge, Clare West and David Ravenscroft from the development group also attended the petition hand-in.

Cllr Johnson said there would be debate in full council. The petition needed 7,000 signatures to prompt a debate.

He said: "We are trying to take 45 percent out of our budget. We can't do that by turning the lights off early but we do appreciate how valuable the libraries are to people. We have also been looking at rural transport, which is the glue that holds a society like ours together."

It is estimated the council will need to save an additional £42 million during this year and the next four financial years.

It ran a budget consultation from July to October to ask residents how they think the council should prioritise their budget, including whether libraries should be a priority.

There were 1,979 responses and 52 percent said “reducing customer services and libraries across the county" was their least preferred option to save money.

Cllr Johnson said: "The main thing I would just like people to understand is we are obliged to make a number of decisions which will not be popular. I promise you that they are not taken lightly."

He added: "Everyone thinks we sit in ivory towers and don't care about anyone else. I promise you that is not the case."