SWINDON is set to lose 11 of its 15 libraries within the next year, the council has revealed.

Highworth, North Swindon, West Swindon and the Central Library will stay open under the strategy announced earlier, but 11 other libraries will no longer be supported from June next year. 

The task of providing a library service in those areas will now be down to volunteer groups, charities, community groups and local residents. 

A one-off pot of £500,000 will be made available to support groups looking to provide some sort of library service locally.

That money could be used to meet starting costs such as equipment, IT investment, the temporary funding of facilities whilst local funding arrangements are sought, and the training and development of local organisations and volunteers. 

It cannot be used to maintain book stock or to pay for building costs, public IT networks or staffing - those costs must be met by the local organisation.

The suggestion is that pubs, coffee shops and community centres could apply for some of the transitional funding with a view to providing a library-related service, such as a book-drop facility, albeit not in a building that is actually called a library. 

The decision follows a lengthy consultation prompted by the need to cut £1.5 million, some 60 per cent, of the libraries budget by 2020 due to the rising cost of providing mandatory services such as care for vulnerable adults and children.

Coun Mary Martin, cabinet member for communities with responsibility for libraries, said: “We are extremely fortunate in Swindon to have such a large number of libraries, but with an increasing amount of our budget being spent on vulnerable people in our community we cannot go on as we are.

“The core network proposed in the library strategy will ensure 85 per cent of households will live less than two miles from a library and that figure will increase further as we are intent on working with the community to develop ways of enhancing the library provision.

“The public engagement exercise showed what people value most about their local library and this strategy, if supported by the Council’s cabinet, will allow to provide an innovative service in locations that best meet the needs of local people.”

Under the new proposals, the Central Library will be staffed for 47.5 hours a week, however Highworth, West Swindon and North Swindon will only be staffed for 15 hours. 

There is a hope that those three sites may be able to open for longer than 15 hours but only through the assistance of volunteers or the use of more self-service technology. 

Even with the cuts outlined in the proposal, an additional £318,000 of savings will still need to be found to bring the four library model within the required £1.1 million budget.

As a result, the council have said they can only commit to meeting the building costs of the four libraries until April 2018.

They say they are having “some exploratory discussions” to determine how those costs might be met by 'commercial opportunities' or sharing a building with other partners and services. 

The proposals will go before the cabinet next Wednesday where they will almost certainly be passed.

An eight week consultation will then run from the start of August before the plans are put to the full council for approval later this year.