Closing branch libraries or handing them over to volunteers delivers relatively small direct savings because the expensive structure and overheads are left in place.

What the library users of Swindon need are imaginative and sustainable solutions based on best practice and the best advice, not taking the axe to badly needed and valued branch libraries.

In its Draft Updated Library Strategy the council asserts: “Libraries are competing with retail environments that are regularly refreshed and changed”. This is totally the wrong way to see the role of libraries; they cannot and should not be competing in the retail and leisure markets. Replacing the current self-service units with ones that allow users to pay for and access other council services is also discussed in the Draft Stragegy. My Community software is developed to deliver access to other services and is not an advanced version of what is provided by library RFID self-service machines. So should Swindon council use a significant amount of money from the Libraries budget to install it? I think not.

Being a councillor in local government is about challenging officers to develop imaginative solutions to problems to the benefit of all residents, not least the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged.

It is not about simply adopting lazy solutions with no regard to their impact on local communities. Is there any room for manoeuvre? Could the ‘support costs’ be allocated more fairly across departments or are the council's hands tied and the whole shebang controlled by Capita?

That raises the question of whether the outsourcing of some support services to Capita has created more problems than it has solved. If the contract was badly drawn up, the council should be taken to task for it rather than residents being punished for any incompetence. If Capita is not to blame then Swindon should be looking at if libraries are affected disproportion-ately and do something about it. Is there a mindset in Swindon that libraries don't matter and that staff are unnecessary? They do matter and paid staff, to help everyone rather than a select few, are key to a viable service!

I'd like the public to be able to see the research that Swindon's councillors and officers have undertaken which has led to their decision that creating a two-tier library service “strategy” is their only option. If Swindon were to share its Legal Services department with a neighbouring council for example, how much could be saved and applied to essential frontline services? Has the notion that sharing or merging some of Swindon's back office functions and senior management been examined? In his letter to the Adver on 20 January, Peter Gallagher pointed out that the consultation on libraries is open until 5 April but the decision on how much money to remove from the libraries budget will be made early in February. He called it “strange timing”. What is equally “strange” is that the public has been given so few of the facts.

We are being consulted about the de-staffing of our valued branch libraries whilst far too many questions are being left unanswered.

Shirley Burnham, Arundel Close, Swindon