OXFORDSHIRE County Council leader Keith Mitchell has hit back at an Oxfam chief for warning volunteers should not run libraries, saying: “Surely he understands the country is broke?”

Mr Mitchell, who proposed closing 20 out of 43 branches, spoke after Oxfam trading director David McCullough said using volunteers only was a “bad idea”.

The Conservative councillor told the Oxford Mail: “I worry that this chap is apparently running a large business.

“Surely he understands the country is broke? The coalition Government inherited a national budget where spending has exceeded income in every year since 2001, meaning that the country keeps on adding to the national credit card.

“We have no choice other than to cut public spending and, by doing it quickly, we have earned the confidence of those who fund our debt and kept interest rates low and affordable.”

Mr McCullough spoke out this week, saying the charity had been approached by other councils for advice about using volunteers.

But he warned: “A vibrant, engaged community starts from an investment in infrastructure and skills, which can then be supplemented with a willing volunteer base.

“Cutting jobs for trained staff and hoping to fill the space with volunteers will not deliver a stable, long-term solution.”

The council made a u-turn on the closure plans last month.

It now wants volunteers to help run 22 branches, backed with council funding.