THE Cabinet has voted in favour of the libraries strategy, paving the way for a move from 15 funded libraries down to four.

In a wide ranging debate during their meeting on Wednesday, cabinet members discussed issues including the role of volunteers, finding new income streams, the mobile library and the use of transitional funding.

But observers hoping for greater clarification on detail or specifics will have been disappointed, instead it appeared that a sense of hope was the driving force behind the plans as they currently stand.

The strategy, which would see the council running just the Central, West Swindon, North Swindon and Highworth libraries from June next year, was unveiled last week.

They are looking to parishes, voluntary groups, ward councillors and ordinary residents to lead community based library services in those areas where council libraries will no longer be funded.

A pot of £500,000 has been made available to support the one off costs involved in establishing those community led schemes.

Since its unveiling, the strategy has attracted criticism from campaigners and from the Labour group on the council, even drawing the attention of regional television news and the national press.

However Coun Mary Martin, Cabinet Member for Libraries, said that in the days since the announcement she has had positive discussions with a range of groups and that she was pleased with the number of people contacting her to express an interest in getting involved.

She said that work was already underway, particularly with regard to Wroughton library, to figure out how a community library service would function.

Coun Brian Ford, who represents the Wroughton ward, said: “I was going to abstain but I’m now going to vote in favour because I think we’ve gone a long way to finding options.

“I am fairly bullish now whereas I was very pessimistic ten days ago.”

While they have welcomed the prospect of an early solution in Wroughton, campaigners have cautioned against using it as a model for the rest of the borough.

Unlike some areas, Parks for example, Wroughton has a long established parish council and a demographic that lends itself to finding additional volunteering capacity.

Coun Jim Robbins (Lab – Mannington and Western), said that while a desire to maintain some sort of library service in non-core areas was to be welcomed, the fact that the aspiration seemed to be reliant purely on hope rather than on firm facts was a concern.

Coun Dale Heenan (Con – Covingham and Dorcan), pointed out to his cabinet colleagues that the east of Swindon was set to go from two libraries down to none and that even if Park Library was to be maintained, his residents would still be more than two miles away.

He stressed the importance of using the transitional funding effectively and asked what ward councillors and residents could do to start the ball rolling in the right direction.

A public consultation will get underway next month and will last eight weeks before a final position is agreed.