Libraries in Gargrave, Bentham, Ingleton and Embsay could be saved from closure after Council chiefs announced they would make funding cuts “fairer” following a public outcry.

North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell said there had been a massive response to the public consultation on plans to withdraw funding from 20 libraries in the county, including four in Craven.

He said senior councillors would now re-examine the proposals and consider spreading the cuts across all of the authority’s 42 libraries.

North Yorkshire still needs to slash £2.3 million off its library service budget over the next four years.

The announcement means previously unaffected libraries in Skipton, Settle and Cross Hills could be forced to share some of the cuts, with reduced opening hours.

Coun Weighell said: “The overwhelming view of the consultation was that what was being imposed wasn’t fair. In some places there were no cuts, while Bentham, Ingleton, Gargrave and Embsay were taking massive cuts. They had the choice to recruit volunteers to run their libraries or lose them.

“It was a genuine consultation throughout the whole county. There was no point in doing it if we were not going to listen to the response.

“What we are now intending to do is stick with the budget we have set and look at the best possible ways of delivering a library service throughout the county.

"We still need to save the same amount of money but we will look at spreading that money more evenly.”

Liberal Democrat councillors have put forward their own proposal, which will be debated by the executive on Tuesday and full Council on Wednesday.

It calls for all the smaller libraries to be kept open, the retention of six of the 10 mobile libraries, reduced opening hours of the main libraries and the scrapping the proposed super mobile library.

Campaigners this week cautiously welcomed the news.

Craven district councillor Lin Barrington, who has been supporting the fight to save Bentham Library, said: “It sounds like good news.

"I expect North Yorkshire was rather taken by surprise at how much feeling there was about the libraries.

“We will have to keep the pressure on to make sure that, whatever the outcome is, it is fair for everyone.”

Bernadette Atkinson, who is a member of Gargrave Library Supporters Group, said it was a case of wait and see but the group’s aim was to retain a library in Gargrave whatever North Yorkshire’s decision was.

She added: “I feel our councillors have taken onboard the strength of feeling amongst communities who don’t want to see a library amenity removed from their village.

"It is back to a fair playing field.

"We live in the real world and know cuts have got to be made but as long as the cuts are fair and across the board we will find a way forward. It is when they are unfair that people get angry.”

Embsay with Eastby Parish Council chairman Mark Wilson said the parish council was committed to retaining a library in the village and had set up a working group to find ways of achieving that.

He added: “If North Yorkshire has changed its mind and is going to retain a library in the village hall then that can only be a good thing.

"They have obviously looked at the figures, as we have, and seen that is very well used.”

Skipton MP Julian Smith said the news was encouraging as he did not want to see rural communities bearing the brunt of the cuts.

“I think libraries can be lifelines to rural communities and are vital to older and younger residents.

"While I know savings need to be made, I do think libraries can be maintained and North Yorkshire needs to work with communities and be creative about how it will do that.”