Libraries in Buckinghamshire could soon by run by charity trusts if the county council goes ahead with proposals to wash their hands of the service to save money.

Buckinghamshire County Council says "severe pressure" on budgets in the coming three years means the county library service must save at least £1 million.

Opening hours at council-run libraries have already been cut in previous cost-saving measures.

Library Service Manager David Jones says the department, which has already found £2m savings in the past six years, need to look more radically at the way things are done to save more money.

And today, a select committee was presented with three options for the running of libraries - including High Wycombe - with 'spinning out' libraries to be run by independent, not-for-profit organisations one of the options on the table.

With Cabinet Member Martin Phillips, Mr Jones said had looked at seven options but only three were realistic. These are:

1: 'As is’ – continuing libraries under the existing model of local council management funded by the taxpayer through County Hall's budget.

2: 'Outsource' - go out to competitive tender and commission the library service from an external organisation as a County Council contract.

3: 'Spin out' - set up and run libraries as a new, independent not-for-profit organisation, through a commissioning contract with the County Council.

Cllr Phillips admitted the "safest option" would be to keep the service as it is.

Mr Jones said that while continuing libraries as they were was the lowest risk option, they wouldn't be able to make as many savings or generate as much income as commissioning externally.

Pursuing the not-for-profit route would be more risky, he told the committee, but would attract tax advantages and significantly reduce costs and open up new channels of funding.

He said: "The financial modelling suggests this option is most likely to achieve our savings targets, while providing a sustainable service for the long term."

While library visits in Bucks have declined, there has been a steep rise in online usage, with the growth in ebooks, electronic magazines and audio.

The next move will be to cost out the options, before a public consultation.

Cllr Phillips said: 'While keeping the libraries in-house is clearly the safest option, because we're all used to the procedures and processes, we can't be innovative and exploit the new sources of income that a not-for-profit set-up would allow.

'I want to maintain the ethos of our libraries as a place for everyone, as a facility we value, and I see the 'spin-out' option as the best and most cost-effective way to create the stability we want."

Select Committee Chairman David Carroll said: "The future of our libraries is an emotive issue, and we're asking some challenging questions to try to develop a positive outcome for our residents. We've asked them to have a look at their business case and a consultation process to satisfy Members' concerns on behalf of our communities."