WITH just days to go until the future of Swindon’s libraries is revealed, a council task group has given a glimmer of hope that more than four could be saved.

The group, made up of councillors from across parties, has been carrying out an investigation in the hope that new options can be found.

On Wednesday they published their first report, the result of three meetings over the last two months where officers and cabinet members were invited for in depth discussions on the current proposals.

Task group chairman, Coun Chris Watts, said: “In a very short space of time we’ve managed to squeeze in three meetings.

“Everybody left their political hats outside the room and it was very clear we were looking at what was currently being proposed and whether we could do anything to stretch that budget to include more libraries in the core strategy. I believe we were quite successful in that.”

The last version of the libraries strategy to be released envisaged a future core provision of just four sites compared to the 15 currently in operation.

The central, North Swindon, West Swindon and Highworth libraries were to be saved, albeit with the latter three seeing a marked reduction in staffed hours.

A pot of transitional funding has been made available to assist community groups, and also the new soon-to-be-created parish councils, should they wish to take on the running of a local library.

In recent months, campaigners have been focusing their attention on Park library as the most likely addition to the core strategy in any late re-think.

It is the most used site of those under threat and serves a community with a greater level of social, educational and economic need than elsewhere in the town.

No firm indication has been given as to its future, but the tone of discussion suggests a growing consensus that its omission was a mistake.

The task group has been looking at how alternatives to the four-site strategy, such as a trust, could allow for the widening of the core provision to include Park and potentially other libraries.

Further areas of work include looking at how the burden of paying out business rates, money which the council does not currently see all that much of, could be alleviated for the libraries service.

The final version of the libraries strategy will be released on Tuesday and will go before cabinet the week after.

It has been agreed that the task group will continue to fulfill an overview and scrutiny role even after that meeting, watching to see that it is implemented in the most fair and efficient way possible.

The cabinet member for libraries, Coun Mary Martin, praised the group for their work thus far and welcomed their continued assistance moving forward through the implementation stages.