Councillors have clashed over young people’s access to libraries in South Gloucestershire.

The Open Access scheme introduced last year enables registered users to enter the library outside of staffed hours.

It is currently available in 10 libraries across the region including Thornbury, Winterbourne and Yate.

The scheme is restricted to adults with all children under the age of 16 having to be accompanied by a parent or carer at all times.

In July Labour Group Chair Councillor Adam Monk tabled a question to Cllr Paul Hughes, cabinet member in charge of libraries, asking whether the council would reconsider the policy that resulted in closed access for teenagers.

It was announced there are no plans to change the age limit but children could still access libraries at times they previously could not, provided they were accompanied by an adult.

Cllr Monk said: ““I am very disappointed that the Tory council is unwilling to review its discriminatory policy and find some way to enable young people greater access to our libraries.

“The ruling Conservatives praise Open Access but it is indisputable that the policy has restricted the hours that young readers can access a library on their own.

“To suggest that a 15 year old could be accompanied by an adult on the way to school or on Sundays is patronising and shows little understanding of teenagers.”

A South Gloucestershire Council Conservative Group spokesperson said: “The question we would put to the Labour Group and their extraordinarily cavalier attitude to the protection of children is ‘Where would you draw the line?’

“Labour seem to be happy with the prospect of unaccompanied toddlers in a public place, but this view raises considerable safeguarding issues.

“By capping at 16, we have implemented a policy consistent with Bristol and North Somerset, our partners in the LibrariesWest consortium, which does not restrict under 16’s from using the facilities during staffed hours or during Open Access hours if accompanied by an adult.

“It is highly concerning to us that Labour would call for such a vague blanket change to a policy that has been introduced with the safety and security of our children and young people at heart.”

There are currently no plans to change the age limit.