LIBRARIES across Wokingham borough are set to be privatised in a bid to maintain services.

Wokingham Borough Council's executive committee is due to vote on the plan to set up a partnership with a private sector company next Thursday in a bid to save £170,000 each year.

Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for community development, said libraries would not be closing but that the locations of some centres would be reviewed. She added: "Libraries are in decline, so this is a solution to modernise the service.

"If we go ahead with this, we will be one of the first councils in the country to do so. But we are not taking services away, we are just making things more accessible and outsourcing is the best opportunity for us to do this."

The council says that it is responding "proactively and innovatively" to the the trend which has seens scores of libraries i n other parts of the country closing. Its privatisation plans, which will have to be advertised across the continent to satisfy European law changing circumstances, will include opening a new library in a community centre complex.

But opponents of privatisation will also be wary of the stress being put on reducing the overall cost of running the service.

Wendy Crosson-Smith, head of libraries and lifelong learning, added: "This has been in the making for 18 months. We are confident that staff will be transferred over to the private company if it goes ahead, but we will be reviewing the services and the locations of the libraries."

For the full story, pick up next Thursday's Reading Chronicle.