DOUBTS have been cast on the viability of outsourcing public services to the private sector.

The pessimistic comments were made when Herefordshire Council held a general scrutiny committee meeting ahead of next month's full cabinet meeting when they will make decisions on the future delivery of museum, library and archive services in the county.

Questions from members of the public touched upon concerns raised by the potential outsourcing process and the subsequent accountability, before representatives from individual support groups made presentations.

All were sceptical about the risks involved in services being sub contracted with no strong business case being made to support the idea.

"Even the bidders refer to the unlikelihood of them being able to run the service without a subsidy," said Nina Shields, the deputy chair for the Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries (JAHL).

Meanwhile, Councillor Carole Gandy raised the issue of other councils who have outsourced library services only to see those organisations, such as Carillion, fold causing loss of services and savings.

"What evidence is there that outsourcing will produce the savings required and by how much?" she said.

Decisions have been made during the past five years which have set the direction for options, the objective being to retain services important to the public, while making the services more efficient and self-funding where possible.

Soft market testing was carried out in October 2016 to determine whether there is a market for outsourcing the three separate services, which has been established as viable, though it was emphasised by Assistant Director Communities Natalia Silver that this was not a procurement exercise.

Herefordshire Museum Service Support Group (HMSSG) has presented a Heritage Lottery Funded sustainable future model which gives a detailed, three stage road-map for managing withdrawal of Herefordshire Council funding and allowing it to become self-sufficient.

But Ms Shields said to "take a 'one size fits all' approach to Museums, Archives and Libraries would be bad enough" before adding: "But to do so to the rich tapestry of our libraries would be to kill the uniqueness of their individual offerings, developed over years to suit the differing communities."

The Library Service is looking to making savings of £65,000 in the current financial year with some short-term savings options being further reductions in opening hours across sites and renting space to a third party at Hereford Library.

The Museum and Archive Service is looking to save £21,000 again with short-term saving plans to include reduced opening hours of the search room by one day a week and by increasing footfall to the Black and White House museum.

Approval of the short-term savings plans is expected to be made at the meeting in May.