AS MANY as ten libraries could close next year as Swindon Borough Council bids to save £1.5 million.

The move has been forced on the council as part of £48 million savings it has to make by 2020.

The town’s 15 libraries will pay a heavy price as part of those cuts. The number of council-funded libraries will be reduced to just five, with those sites also seeing a significant reduction in staffed hours.

Around a third of jobs, between 40 and 50 posts, are also expected to be cut.

Earlier this year, the council set out a vision for a core strategy of just four libraries, North Swindon, West Swindon, Highworth and the central library.

But a passionate community campaign has now led to the inclusion of Park library, bringing the core provision up to five.

The central library will see its staffed hours reduced to 47.5 per week while the other four sites will only get 15 hours each.

The future for the remaining ten libraries remains uncertain. The council hopes that community groups or parish councils will come forward to take on the services but it is likely that many will end up closing for good.

Groups who take on a library could get a share of a £500,000 transitional funding pot. But they will have to apply early next year to discover if the council deems them suitable to receive any of it.

The mobile library service will also no longer operate under the new strategy.

Coun Mary Martin, the cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to take part in the public consultation as well as fellow councillors on the member task group as all their input has been invaluable in putting together this updated draft strategy.

“I am pleased we have been able to increase the core provision to include Park library. Discussions are already well underway to secure community-led library provision at Wroughton, Covingham and Upper Stratton and so I am asking cabinet colleagues to approve transitional funding for these at this stage.

“Other libraries where discussions are under way include Liden and Walcot, while we are also talking to other community groups.

“So straight away we could be looking at retaining a great deal of Swindon’s existing library provision and we want to see that figure increase even further by encouraging any groups with an interest in securing community-led library provision in their area to come forward.”

Coun Jim Robbins, the Labour spokesman on libraries, said: “While we are pleased to see Parks library being moved into the core service and saved, we know that this is the council’s tactic for spinning their bad news.

“They make a plan to shut 11 libraries, change it to ten and try to present it as a victory for the council and say that they have listened to residents. How much has the borough spent on yet another consultation where they have ignored the overwhelming views of local residents?

“At a time when our pupils’ literacy rates are below the national average, it is irresponsible and short-sighted to be shutting so many libraries. The Labour group is committed to keeping our libraries open and fighting for their survival, We will carry on working to protect the much-loved vital service our branch libraries provide.”

The plans are expected to be rubber stamped by the cabinet next week.