CAMPAIGNERS and councillors alike have reacted with concern after plans to maintain a service consisting of just four core libraries were announced.

The libraries strategy, which was released on Tuesday after months of debate, committed to keeping just the Central Library as well as North Swindon, West Swindon and Highworth.

The council say they hope that a library service can also be maintained in other areas of Swindon and a £500,000 pot of transitional funding has been set aside to support groups who may come forward to take on the responsibility.

A new approach to library provision was needed after the increased cost of providing statutory services, as well as cuts in central government funding, meant a 60 per cent saving from the libraries budget was needed by 2020.

The Labour group in the council have reacted with disappointment to the future vision the Conservatives have set out.

Coun Jim Robbins, Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for libraries, said: “Whilst we’re pleased that the strategy does keep more of the libraries open than their original plan, having the West, North and Highworth libraries open for 15 hours a week plus whatever volunteers they can muster together isn’t what we would consider to be a comprehensive library service.

“We’re really concerned about where the volunteers would come from but mainly, our biggest disappointment, is that the Council have gone out for consultation on this but they haven’t listened to the clear overwhelming voice of Swindon residents.”

Sarah Church, Chairman of the Save Swindon’s Libraries campaign, recognised that the strategy was a small step forward from the earlier emerging model which had suggested just one core library might be maintained.

She said: “It is good that they have recognised the importance of maintaining some level of professional staff and that one large library is not enough.

“It is concerning that the South and East of Swindon have not been factored in and the prospect of keeping the other 11 libraries open is very much hit and miss at this point, it’s a real postcode lottery.

“At this stage we have a lot of questions which need to be answered so we can understand the thinking behind the strategy.

“There are concerns about sustainability too, in April 2018 the money for building costs will run out even for the four core libraries – we need to understand what that means.”

The campaign is now urging people to read the strategy in full and take the opportunity to write to their ward councillors to make their voices heard.

One such councillor is Labour’s Derique Montaut who represents the Liden, Eldene and Park South ward where two libraries, Park and Liden, are facing closure.

He said: “This is a blatant political attack by the Conservatives – in the areas that I represent these actions will have serious consequences.

Parks is one of the most deprived areas in the country, if there was ever a need for a library on educational grounds it was there.

“The fight back starts now, we have to defend the future of those libraries.”

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.