COMMUNITY libraries in Huntingdonshire could be at risk if council chiefs can not find savings of more than £2million – and the entire service could even be privatised.

COMMUNITY libraries in Huntingdonshire could be at risk if council chiefs can not find savings of more than £2million - and the entire service could even be privatised.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been told it must reduce library spending by £2.2m (25 per cent) over the next four years.

Councillors agreed proposals to transform the way services are provided at a cabinet meeting on Monday, including the possible creation of a new organisation to run the county's libraries or even privatising the service.

Members of the public will also be asked if they are prepared to run libraries themselves on a voluntary basis and self-service technology will be introduced to reduce staffing costs.

A spokesman for the council said: "Although it will reduce staff numbers, the model has the potential to realise the required savings and prevent library closures altogether, as well as putting communities at the heart of their library service."

However, facilities in Buckden, Cambourne, Papworth, Sawtry and Warboys will still be subject to a review, alongside Cambridgeshire's other community libraries. Those found to be performing less well, and with lower community need, will be investigated for closure with the potential to save £100,000.

The bigger libraries in Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots are safe, while services in Ramsey are also guaranteed, with building work in progress for new facilities as part of Luminus' redevelopment of the former Grand Cinema site.

As reported in The Hunts Post, plans are already underway to reduce the frequency of the mobile library services from fortnightly to monthly - a move that will affect more than 60 communities in Huntingdonshire alone. The number of vehicles will be reduced from nine to four, with fewer but longer stops in each community.

Councillor Sir Peter Brown, who represents Huntingdon and is cabinet member for communities, said: "Rather than a knee-jerk reaction or simple cuts to libraries we have reviewed our service very carefully.

"I am extremely clear that we need to transform the way we do things so we can keep delivering high-quality services to our communities rather than chopping and closing facilities.

"The new libraries at Huntingdon, Cambridge central and Wisbech are not in the equation at all. But investing in some of the self-service equipment in use there could enable us to use volunteers in smaller libraries, rather than lose them."

The county would also be looking at a possible new organisation to run all our libraries or to buy books for them.

"There are a number of private organisations running libraries. So privatisation is another option. We should be looking at this as an opportunity."