A LEADING author and a top county politician have gone head-to-head in a war of words over the battle for Oxfordshire’s libraries.

County council leader Keith Mitchell hit out at “leading authors” who had backed campaigns to save some of the 20 libraries the council is planning to shut.

On the website Twitter, Mr Mitchell wrote: “Leading authors signing up against cutting library funding sounds like an element of (undeclared) vested interest. What else would they cut?”

But children’s author Phillip Pullman, who lives in Cumnor and was among the award-winning writers who have defended city libraries, accused the Conservative leader of making a “cheap crack”. He said Mr Mitchell was getting “desperate”.

Closing libraries, including Summertown and Headington, will save £119m over the next four years as a result of Government spending cuts. Library closures would save £2m. Under Public Lending Right legislation, authors are entitled to a payment every time their books are loaned from public libraries.

Councillor Richard Stevens, leader of the council’s Labour group, has lodged legal questions relating to how the county has carried out closure proposals. Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The council is absolutely aware of its legal duties as set out in the Public Libraries and Museums Act.”