YORK’S libraries could be taken out of council control under a potential shake-up, according to opposition councillors.

The Liberal Democrat group on City of York Council has claimed the city’s library service may be transferred into the ownership of a “social enterprise” and that this option will form part of a public consultation to will be launched next week.

The party fears such a move, if implemented, could mean libraries being essentially “privatised” and claimed the plans were being drawn up in private. But the ruling Labour group accused the Lib Dems of “scaremongering”.

York has 14 council-run libraries, as well as the recently-opened Rowntree Park Reading Café, and the Lib Dems said a proposal for the service had been drawn up which would include looking at their potential transfer and how they could generate more income.

Coun Nigel Ayre , Lib Dem spokesman for cultural services, said: “Libraries provide free access to knowledge, information and services for thousands of residents and are an essential hub for a huge range of people.

“We are concerned about any plans to sell off or privatise them. While the social enterprise model has worked with communities running their local pub or shop, Labour need to ensure all possibilities are explored before they rush down this route.”

Coun Ayre also said the proposals had not been subject to scrutiny by opposition councillors and were “progressing quickly behind the scenes”. He said: “If the public don’t want their libraries being removed from public ownership, they need to start telling Labour before it is too late.”

Coun Sonja Crisp , cabinet member for leisure and culture, said residents would get a full say in “what they want from their libraries service in the future”.

She said some of Coun Ayre’s assumptions bore “little resemblance” to the work being undertaken, and said: “His scaremongering could be counterproductive.”

She said details of the consultation would be revealed next week and said it would be a “full and frank debate with the public about how we maintain our excellent service in a climate of reductions to local public services”.