SLASHING the pay of council chiefs, ending local assemblies and cutting the millions paid to consultants are all alternatives to shutting libraries, a meeting was told.

Around 17,000 people, some of whom lobbied last night's Lewisham Council meeting, have signed petitions against possible library closures in Crofton Park, Sydenham, New Cross, Grove Park and Blackheath Village.

The council is due to decide on the libraries’ fate in November as part of a £60m cuts package Mayor Sir Steve Bullock blames on an expected slash in Government funding.

News Shopper: Grove Park protestors

Sir Steve warned the meeting there were other under-threat areas affecting people “who don’t have the ability to mount a campaign”.

He said: “When we come to the crunch we can’t simply decide on how loud the voices are on one given issue.”

Handing one petition in with 4,600 signatures, ward councillor Cllr Pauline Morrison said: “The responses are more than the number of people that voted for any councillor in this chamber.”

Councillor Liam Curran presented a 3,700 signature document, saying it was Sydenham Library’s 106th birthday today and people hoped it would remain open “for another 100 years”.

News Shopper: A campaign banner in New Cross

Councillors’ questions revealed the authority spent £5,264,796 on consultants in the last financial year and has an annual budget for local assemblies of £866,000.

It was suggested these could be cut instead while Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris Maines warned of “armageddon” if the libraries shut, claiming a 10 per cent reduction in the salaried of the council’s 70 top earners would cover the saving.

Council chief executive Barry Quirk earns £192,387 per year.