THE county council has been told to produce a long-term ‘vision’ for its library service before making any decisions on its future.

Worcestershire County Council has been told it needs to use the results of a four-month consultation as well as an extensive peer review to create a strategy before it begins cutting more than £395,000 from the library budget this year.

The results of a four-month public consultation into libraries by Worcestershire County Council will be discussed by cabinet next week (July 11).

Throughout the consultation, the county council has ruled out closures as inevitable and said it would only do so as a last resort.

However, a peer review by the Local Government Association has recommended the council should consider abandoning this plea, promote the use of 'open' unstaffed libraries and also look at using single-staffed libraries more.

The council also looks set to agree rearranging how much it would cut from its library budget by 2021.

The authority still plans to slash £800,000 in the next three years but now looks set to cut £395,000 of that this year - £250,000 more than planned – to stay on target.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for communities, said: “The development of a library strategy for Worcestershire presents a fantastic opportunity to further engage residents, partners and staff in designing the future of the library service in Worcestershire to make sure that it meets community needs both in the short and longer term.”

Cllr Hodgson visited all 23 libraries across the county meeting with more than 800 people.

Almost 2,000 people replied to the council’s consultation into the future of the library service which the council now plans to use to form its long-term strategy.

The consultation showed strong support for libraries to remain open by sharing facilities with other services and also opposed the idea of making libraries totally volunteer-led.

More than 1,400 people signed a petition calling on the county council to save the embattled Rubery Library.

In November last year a group of protestors gathered outside the building on Library Way with Labour councillor Peter McDonald.

Cllr McDonald said: "This clearly shows the feeling for the library and its importance and wellbeing to the local community.

"Yet the council is prepared to rip the heart out of our community by cutting back on libraries which can only be described as an act of cultural vandalism. The consultation that has been carried out was nothing more than a sham."

The future of the library was cast into doubt when it ranked lowly in an assessment of need by the county council.