NEXT Wednesday my cabinet colleagues and I will be asked to approve a strategy which would radically change how the council delivers a much-loved service.

I am of course talking about potential changes to our library service and many of you will already have read stories or listened to reports that will have scrutinised the detail of the cabinet paper which we will discuss.

The council’s original draft strategy which went out for consultation provoked a great deal of passion and debate.

We received 1,632 responses to the two-month consultation including detailed submissions from the Save Our Libraries campaign group and a proposal from our own staff.

A cross-party Member Task Group was also formed to provide input into the draft proposals and I would like to personally thank everyone who has contributed to the debate and made their feelings known about how much they value their local library.

The project team have reflected as many of the responses as possible in the strategy and delivery model within the report and we will take all of these into consideration.

Council officers and my cabinet colleague Coun Mary Martin have been working incredibly hard to squeeze as much out of the funding envelope as they can and I also thank them for their dedication.

We are aiming to keep all the libraries open but we are looking for potential partners to come forward to work with us.

Unfortunately the climate the council is operating in is far from ideal.

The tens of millions of pounds we have to save over the next few years is not going to go away and, as we have done in recent years, we are having to look at providing services in a different way.

The truth of the matter is that councils will no longer be able to afford to provide some of the traditional services that residents have come to expect.

When the council first suggested the idea of leasing out the town’s leisure facilities it was initially met with scepticism, but after transferring them over to charitable trust GLL and Twigmarket we have ensured those facilities have stayed open and benefitted from millions of pounds in investment.

The Arts Centre is now run by Wyvern Theatre Limited and I understand it is currently thriving. We recently approved plans to create extra parish councils which will carry out local services which are important to people like grass cutting and keeping areas clean and tidy. We know parish councils can successfully take on these services and do them well.

I appreciate residents and our own staff will be worried about the future of our libraries, but I want to assure everyone we will make a decision that delivers the best outcome for as many people in Swindon as possible within the financial constraints we are facing.

It will not be a decision that will be taken lightly.