LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed a campaign to save Swindon libraries from the threat of closure.
Bestselling authors Jake Arnott, Alan Gibbons and Paul Cornell have also lent their support.
Fourteen of the town’s 15 libraries could be shut as part of proposals to cut £50 million from its budget over the next three years.
Mr Corbyn was in Oxford on a speaking tour of the regions when he was buttonholed by Councillor Jim Robbins (Lab, Mannington and Western) and told about the campaign.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to try to get him to promote the Save Swindon’s Libraries campaign," said Me Robbins.
He said the Chippenham-born politician knew Swindon well and realised what a big loss to the town it would be: “He was really disappointed to hear the amount of libraries that are under threat in Swindon.”
Coun Robbins, who tweeted a picture of the encounter, stressed: “We are trying to really make sure people are fully aware of what is going on and that they are engaging and protesting.”
He accepted no firm decision had yet been made – the issue is due to go before the cabinet in June. But he said the model that was being considered, using volunteers to keep libraries open, had already been tried at Walcot and was failing.
“The amount of books borrowed has dropped massively and the cost of borrowing has risen massively,” he said. “We are in a position where it is cheaper for the borough to give away the books from Walcot library.”
He added that taking into account overheads it cost nearly £9 per book against the cost of around £1 per book for the central library.
One of the concerns was whether enough volunteers could be recruited to run the libraries and provide a good enough service.
The council announced earlier this year that it needed to cut £50 million from its budget over the next three years and in February it agreed a budget for this year that included £300,000 cuts to libraries. The service could be cut by as much as £1.5 million by 2020.
A Save Swindon Libraries campaign was launched and is holding a public meeting at Christchurch Community Centre in Old Town on April 10 where the three authors will be speaking.
The meeting starts at 2pm and people will be given the opportunity to discuss alternatives to the cuts and air their views.