CAMPAIGNERS are calling on council chiefs to drop ‘highly risky, costly and misguided’ plans to outsource the county’s library service.

Mark Ferrero, chairman of Joint Action for Herefordshire Libraries, has written to Herefordshire Council cabinet members saying outsourcing could lead to significant extra costs due to possible contract failures.

Croydon Council took back control of its libraries earlier this year after government services provider Carillion, which managed the town’s libraries from 2012, went into liquidation.

Mr Ferrero fears a similar situation could arise in Herefordshire should the services be outsourced.

“Our view is that it would be a seriously misguided step to outsource the library service at this time,” said Mr Ferrero.

“The library service is a statutory service. The final responsibility for it would remain the council’s, even after outsourcing.

“Outsourcing would be highly risky in terms of possible contractor failure and significant extra costs, as happened in Croydon.

“The collapse of Carillion, and the reported delivery problems with other major contractors such as Atos, call into question the whole idea of outsourcing.”

Mr Ferrero also said his group was not aware of any organisation successfully delivering a library service in a rural area like Herefordshire.

“The outsourcing process itself would be costly, unpopular, disruptive and attract bad publicity,” he said.

“Our library service is popular, well used and far too important to put at risk in this way. We urge our councillors not to waste money on outsourcing.”

A Herefordshire Council spokesman said they recognise the value of libraries to many people in the county and the council aims to keep them open in a challenging financial climate.

“To meet the changing use of libraries, the council has also invested in sites across the county, most recently in Hereford, Ross and for Leominster in 2018,” they said.

“The cabinet meeting on June 28 will explore the options for securing the long-term future of libraries, museums and archives, including being managed and development by a partner organisation,” said the spokesman.