Berkshire

Wokingham private libraries plan scrapped

Plans to let private firms run 11 libraries in Berkshire have been scrapped.

Wokingham council received bids to run its service with savings of £170,000 to the authority predicted.

But the move prompted fears of job cuts with the council now admitting it has not been convinced of the benefits.

Wokingham would have been one of the first councils to effectively privatise its libraries following a similar move in the London borough of Hounslow.

'Improve service'

The Conservative-led council currently pays out about £2.1m a year to run its library service but said it believed it could pay firms less to take them on.

It was also hoped that private investment would improve services such as IT provision and boost visitor numbers.

Pauline Jorgensen, member for internal services, said: "We wanted to see what options there were on how to provide a library service in a different way.

"We've done quite a lot of work with bidders but there's not much to be had.

"We decided the risks outweighed the benefits to the service.

"It is very important to keep the service stable and it could have been unsettling to some users of the library... especially when commercial factors come into it."

She said there was no pressure to make savings at present and called on users to come up with ideas to help improve the service in the future.

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