Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has promised to put politics to one side and congratulate Sheffield Council if councillors agree to a U-turn on library closures.
The Sheffield Hallam MP described the council’s library review - which threatens to axe 16 facilities - as ‘one of the most spiteful acts’ he has witnessed since being involved in politics in the city.
Of the 11 hub libraries the Labour-run council has promised to keep open, just one is in the Hallam constituency.
With the cabinet set to examine the results of public consultation over the next few weeks, Mr Clegg has made a plea to leaders to go back to the drawing board.
He said: “The libraries issue should not have been politicised in this way.
“Toddlers, parents, the elderly - they have been ruthlessly used as a political football.
“It is particularly offensive to people in the south west of the city. Residents in my constituency are not all rich.
“If you speak to the elderly people, grandparents and parents of Totley they’re not all sitting on big pots of gold.
“The council spent £60,000 trying to keep the Next store out of Sheffield. It would cost about £24,000 to keep Broomhill Library open per year if it was staffed by volunteers.”
In a bold move Mr Clegg promised to publicly pat the council on the back if they listen to the protesting public.
He said: “I really want a change of heart.
“In fact this is my promise - if they change their mind I will congratulate them for it. Libraries are more important than politics.”
Councillors will make a final decision in February.