Ealing Council’s public consultation on the future of the borough’s libraries was today branded a 'disgrace' and a 'cynical PR exercise'.

Four libraries and Ealing’s mobile library service are under threat of closure.

The document, which residents have until May 3 to reply to, says 'significant savings' need to be made to Ealing’s library services.

The consultation document asks respondents if they would agree with a decision to close the libraries in Hanwell, Perivale, Northfields, and Northolt Lesiure Centre, and the mobile library service.

In 2009/10, there were just over 1.4m visits to Ealing’s libraries, with more than 50,000 active borrowers, at a cost of £6.7m.

That means each active borrower costs the council just under £130 – enough to buy each of them an Amazon Kindle.

Councillor Kamaljit Dhindsa, cabinet member for Customer and Community Services, said cutting the library budget was one of a number of tough choices the council had to make, but they know how important libraries are to residents.

Mr Dhindsa said: "It is important that before any decisions are reached as many people as possible share their views through this consultation."

However, campaigner Sean Ashcroft said the consultation was 'a fait accompli', which did not give residents the opportunity to say they didn’t want libraries to close.

He said: "It is an expensive and cynical PR exercise."

Liberal Democrat Councillor Nigel Bakhai, whose ward includes Hanwell library, and group leader Gary Malcolm agreed, branding the consultation 'a disgrace' and 'a ploy' respectively.

Councillor Malcolm said: "It will close some libraries for sure sadly - they want to pretend they are really consulting."

Mr Ashcroft said no libraries should be closing and that although they are presently under-used, they are highly valued by certain groups, such as the elderly, the unemployed and children.

"My seven-year-old daughter cried when I told her Hanwell Library might close," he said.

"They [library closures] will affect the people who will suffer the most."

The consultation also suggests that smaller libraries, such as Pitshanger, could be taken over by voluntary groups and invites applications to run Ealing’s libraries.

Mr Ashcroft argued that the volunteers would not provide a good service.

"The criteria here isn’t quality, it’s cheapness," he said.

"They [the council] are abdicating their responsibility for libraries."

Ealing Council say the criteria for considering which libraries to close should include location, number of users, running costs, and the financial investment needed if a library were to stay open.

According to information supplied with the consultation, Hanwell and Perivale require £1.1m and £527,000 in investment for major works, and the mobile library will need £150,000 for a new vehicle in the next five years.

Councillor Bakhai said the council could afford to invest if they abandoned their plans for a £5.5m car park in Southall.

Mr Bakhai said: "I believe they’ve got all their priorities wrong."

Conservative Councillor Philip Taylor, whose ward includes Northfields Library, argued the council ought to cut costs by sacking back-room staff, and ought to keep libraries open.

He said: "This council thinks less must mean less, but there are painless solutions."

Councillor Bakhai said the council ought to think of more creative ways to improve the buildings.

He suggested other services could be brought into the available space in Hanwell Library to improve user numbers and make it more financially viable.

However, not only do Northfields and Northolt Lesiure Centre Library not require investment, they were both recently refurbished.

Northfields Library re-opened in July 2007 after a £610,200 refurbishment, while Northolt re-opened only last January after a refurbishment costing just under £1m.

Councillor Bakhai said: "I’m angry that they’ve spent so much on Northfield and Northolt and now they’re going to close them - what a complete waste of council taxpayers’ money."

He also said it felt like Hanwell had been neglected, having been received no investment for years, while Councillor Dhindsa was able to keep Southall library open.

"Councillor Dhindsa was almost laughing at us when I raised this at a council meeting," he said.

"He’s getting a car park and his libraries are staying open."

Mr Ashcroft said that his campaign, based at http://saveyourlibrary.com/, is still in its infancy, but he expected more people to become involved.

"Even if they don’t use the libraries themselves, people are still angry. Libraries just seem to touch a nerve," he said.

"The only thing the council will understand is mass protest."