LIBRARIES in Swindon currently run by the borough council will not be outsourced, it has been confirmed.

Members of the authority’s Conservative Cabinet agreed not to transfer responsibility for delivering the service to another body, in something of a change of approach.

The council has been looking at moving the service to a Public Sector Mutual model, where a staff-owned consortium would run libraries.

But Coun Keith Williams, the cabinet member for corporate and customer services, recommended that the plan be dropped and the library service be run, as it has been, from Euclid Street.

He said: “We have looked at where other local authorities have outsourced library provision, and they are often run by one of two companies GLL or Libraries Unlimited.

“We have decided that this approach is just not suitable for Swindon.

“If we wanted to do this, we would have to put the contract out for tender, and we would not be able to restrict that to just our own staff.

“While we might be able to get the service for a lower price if it was run by a PSM, we wouldn’t be able to have the extended opening hours that we have today.”

With help and funding from parish councils, West Swindon library is open for an extra 16 hours a week, Park library for 20 and Highworth for 15, and libraries in Wroughton and Old Town have extended hours.

Coun Williams said keeping the library service in-house would allow the council to increase its social utility: “We can use it to deliver some of our key priorities such as boosting literacy levels and helping people to develop their skills. We are serious about improving attainment in Swindon and we want people to have access to the wide range of cultural and literary sources that are already available.

“We have had a lot of support from parish and town councils and community library trusts and I would like to issue a big thank you to each of them.”

He added that £100,000 of taxpayer’s money earmarked to manage the transition of the service has not been spent and will be returned to the council’s general fund.

Labour group leader Coun Jim Grant said he was pleased at the recommendation: “I’m very glad to hear that the libraries are not to be outsourced, but can you tell me why this idea was looked at in the first place?”

In 2016, Swindon Borough Council hit headlines nationally after plans were mooted to shut 10 of 15 libraries. Parish councils took on many of libraries in the firing line.