THERE are growing calls for a Conservative councillor to back up the claims she made on libraries during last week’s election campaign.

On a leaflet entitled ‘Highworth Library – The Facts’, Coun Maureen Penny (Con, Highworth), pledged that the library was not going to close, that it was not going to move and that it would still be staffed by qualified librarians.

Speaking to the Adver last week, Coun Penny said: “I stand by everything on the leaflet - I went in to see Coun Rennard and Coun Perkins regarding the difference in rural areas and we got a dispensation for Highworth.

“Coun Rennard has seen the leaflet and stands by it.”

When asked to clarify how long the assurances about the library’s future could be guaranteed, Coun Penny said: “We’re looking at the next four years.”

News that Highworth has been excluded from the controversial library consultation and impending restructuring should come as a great relief for campaigners but their overwhelming reaction has been one of scepticism.

It was originally earmarked as one of six pilot areas in which new working models would be developed for delivering community services such as libraries – all while achieving savings of £300,000 this financial year.

There has still been no formal announcement indicating a diversion from that strategy or Highworth’s exemption from it.

Sarah Church, Chairman of the Save Swindon’s Libraries campaign, said: “I find it hard to understand how Councillor Penny can make any assertions about the future of Highworth Library.

“At this stage, the libraries strategy has not even been written so nobody is in a position to make promises of this nature.

“Has a deal been done for Highworth? What about the rest of Swindon?

“Either there is a policy, in which case let us see it – or there isn’t, in which case these promises are not accurate.”

“My fear is that claims have been made that cannot be guaranteed, certainly not beyond the end of the current financial year.”

Coun Perkins, the cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: “The building that Highworth Library is in is not owned by Swindon Borough Council, it is leased at a peppercorn rate.

“It wouldn’t give us any financial savings if it was closed.

“Nothing will change this year and there is no reason to consider moving Highworth library.

“As for staffing, there will be staff, they will be trained, but who pays them we can’t say at this point.”

A petition circulated by Save Swindon’s Libraries generated almost 3,000 signatures in six weeks and was debated at last month’s full council meeting.

A separate petition, specifically looking at the issue of Highworth library, attracted over 2,700 signatures.

It has also been handed to the council and is due to be debated in front of the full council later this year – a debate that would seem somewhat academic if, as is claimed, a decision to secure its future has already been made.