SHIRE Hall chiefs will have to attend a Whitehall meeting to justify their library service cuts.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials have summoned Gloucestershire County Council officers to explain their decision to withdraw support for 10 libraries, including Lechlade.

The county announced cuts to its libraries budget in November as part of a plan to slash spending by up to £120 million over the next four years. It sparked a 15,000-signature petition.

Among the proposals was to close 10 buildings unless the community stepped in, and to reduce opening hours at others.

County council chief executive Peter Bungard said council officers meet regularly with Government officials on a range of issues and the council was happy to take any opportunity to present and discuss its plans for maintaining an effective library service across Gloucestershire.

It is not known when the meeting will take place.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Oliver Jackson confirmed that a meeting between DCMS officials and representatives from Gloucestershire County Council is due to take place within the next few weeks.

The announcement comes as the council prepares to defend itself against a High Court challenge to the plan.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has offered representatives of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries a chance to meet officials from his department to present their views on library changes in the county.

FoGL member Demelza Jones said: "Library users from across Gloucestershire have been writing to Mr Vaizey for several months with our concerns about GCC's plans for our library service, which are based on inadequate consultation and ignore the needs of communities.

"We are pleased that DCMS policy officials have agreed to meet with us, and can only hope that they and the Minister listen to our concerns, unlike our elected representatives within the GCC administration."