A CAMPAIGNER intent on saving Old Town Library from the axe has slammed Swindon Council after it bumped up its publicity spending last year by 15 per cent.

Shirley Burnham, from Friends of Old Town Library said she hopes the library, a front line service for hundreds of residents, will not face closure considering the council splashed out £1,466,000 running its press office and paying for advertisements last year.

She said: “When I look at my own budget which is squeezed in 2009, I must identify all the items I’ve enjoyed as luxuries but are not absolutely necessary.

“These are the items that I will axe. I'd expect the council to do the same and be rigorous about it.

“The amount of £1.4m for self-promotion is a case in point. It’s fine in boom times, if you’ve plenty to spare, but an unnecessary expenditure now.

“We are looking at losing our library in Old Town for the sake of £22,000 in staff costs.

“The library is a front-line service, while council expenditure on its own PR is not.”

Shirley added that despite the council’s threats the Old Town facility upped its user numbers last year.

The amount of money spent by the council on publicity increased from £1,265,000 in 2006/07.

Last year the council said the figure was high because it had to advertise vacant director level posts, however, last year without the same advertising pressure the numbers increased.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which obtained figures for Swindon along with 445 authorities across England and Wales, called for the council to get to grips with its priorities – especially during a time of recession.

The council on the other hand said the figures are ‘misleading’.

It said recruitment cost £410,865, promotions cost £391,865, statutory public notices £44,075 and other services, including the council’s communication department, cost £619,507.

A council spokesman said: “Swindon Borough Council is a major employer which provides a vast range of services to more than 180,000 people.

“Residents expect us to give information about the services which are available to them, and the help we can provide. While we are always reviewing our costs and finding ways of doing things for less, there is still a cost.

“The Taxpayers’ Alliance suggestion that most of this is unnecessary nonsense, and shows either a complete lack of understanding about the work of local government, or it’s deliberately misleading.”

In the same period Oxford spent £788,000, Reading paid £1,212,423 and Gloucester paid just £208,000.