ALL but one of the county’s main libraries are now marked for closure or “self service” under Herefordshire Council’s latest cost saving proposals.

Community libraries would be expected to find their own funding for administration and support services.

The plan goes further than savings proposed for libraries in 2013.

Critics have already warned that the county’s library service would “cease to exist” if the latest plan went ahead.

Under the plan, the libraries in Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, and Belmont (Hereford) are “withdrawn” along with their associated customer services and access to public computers.

Bromyard, Kington and Ledbury would have “self service” libraries but lose their customer services.

Hereford library and the Hereford Centre customer service hub  would stay as the “most used” facilities.

The library delivery service for house bound residents would be retained, but the school library service is expected to become self-funding.

Communities would also have to finance back office support for community libraries for themselves.

Responding to the Hereford Times, the council was quick to distance itself from any definitive options for closure.

In a statement the council said:

“At this stage in our budget preparations, the proposals around libraries and customer service centres etc are just that, proposals. They are one part of a broader set of questions included in the ongoing budget consultation launched last week.

“This consultation also includes questions around council tax rises and the public willingness to preserve some services. The responses to these will ultimately affect any decisions.

“It is therefore important that as many residents of Herefordshire respond to the budget consultation and we welcome everyone’s thoughts on all the proposals within it.”

John Hitchin, secretary to Hereford Library Users Group (HLUG), said that, under the plan, the county’s library service would “ virtually cease to exist” with a risk of the council breaching its responsibilities under the 1964 Public Libraries Act.

“Although the proposed cuts do not appear to affect Hereford Broad Street library they will surely do so.

"Expect a reduction in stock purchases and the provision of expert staff,” he said.

HLUG is calling for a show of support for the library service to be expressed through the budget consultation, a related petition is already underway.

Council’s representatives will be visiting a number of locations across the county from this week to take questions budget priorities and the future for services.

A team will be in High Town, Hereford, on Wednesday (August 5) from 10am-2pm.

As recently as 2013, the county’s library service faced cuts in library opening hours by as much as 50 per cent, with libraries themselves on borrowed time if they couldn’t lend themselves to other uses or find volunteers to run them through fund-raising support.

Then, a strong show of opposition forced put the council into a compromise, but the service  has had to undergo significant change in the way it works.