A Wandsworth councillor has left the Conservative party amid concerns that Southfields Library could close.

Councillor Malcolm Grimston, who has represented West Hill for the last 20 years, announced today he was leaving the Tories and will stand on the council as an independent.

Coun Grimston said: “I am told the plans [for Southfields Library] are still at a very early stage and nothing has been decided, so I hope we can stop them before they go much further.

“I would like all work on this idea stopped straight away – you don’t work up plans if you have absolutely no intention of using them. We want cast-iron guarantees about its future. To achieve this we need the community to show its views as clearly as possible.”

A council spokesman said this afternoon: “There are absolutely no plans, at all, to close Southfields Library or any other library in the borough.”

When asked about his decision to leave the Conservative Party, he said: “It has been growing on me. I just felt sometimes you just need to speak out for your community.

“There were some excellent people in the Conservative group, I’m not in any way criticising individuals.

“This was the only issue that was big enough. There have been differences of opinion but you have differences of opinion.

“It is absolutely right the political party has set out views and rigorous decision and sticks together in public. I understand that. Again, this is not a criticism of the Conservative Party, but some of the things I feel I would have been restrained from raising.

“You can get too tribal in politics.”

He said he had no regrets about his time as a Tory councillor and added: “I think the Conservatives in Wandsworth have achieved some great things but we need to get the balance right between a healthy economy but local services need funding and do need to be kept up.

“Council tax is pretty much set by the secretary of state but [Band D] could be raised by 15p a week - it would give us the room we need to discuss.”

A campaign has been launched to protect Southfields Library and is being run by Rob Richman, who stood for Southfields Ward in this year’s council elections, and Coun Grimston.

The campaign also sees the launch of a new political idea, the Wandsworth Independent Alliance.

The idea is an association of independent councillors, and other community activists, who will be expected to use their own judgment and put the community first, rather than voting how the party tells them.

They are urging residents to support their campaign by emailing mgrimston@wandsworth.gov.uk or visiting savesouthfieldslibrary.co.uk.

Tell us what you think of Coun Grimston's decision by emailing ssleigh@london.newsquest.co.uk

More to follow.