FOURTEEN libraries could be handed over to volunteers to help council bosses save nearly £700,000.

The libraries, which range from Castlefied to Gerrards Cross, would become 'community partnerships'.

Bosses believe the scheme can replicate the success of three existing community run centres and say changes must be made to address an unprecedented reduction in Government funds.

Buckinghamshire County Council, responsible for library services, has to find about £94m of savings over four years.

Having already slashed the library running costs by £1.2m in the past year, it estimates a further £668,000 needs to be cut.

Cllr Patricia Birchley, Cabinet Member for Adults and Family Wellbeing said this could change once the details of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review come through on December 2.

"We may be overstating the kind of reductions we have to make but we're erring on the side of safety," she said.

Residents are being asked what they think about the proposals in a three month consultation, which began this week.

Cllr Birchley said the community libraries already established in West Wycombe, Little Chalfont and Chalfont St Giles were a success story, citing the increased footfall introduction of longer opening hours.

She said: “We have got three really good examples at the moment of community libraries where the community have made a magnificent job of involving everyone in the running of their libraries and we hope that can be replicated across the county.”

The scheme is "a fantastic example of the Big Society" – an idea championed by Prime Minister David Cameron – she said.

The Government wants to encourage more volunteer run schemes and give community groups more power.

Critics say it is a veil for spending cuts and question where the volunteers will come from.

Cllr Birchley said the county already has 600 volunteers helping libraries and there is a waiting list at the existing community run centres.

She added: "Hopefully it won't be a problem."

The council will provide help setting up the libraries, if needed, to ensure they become "successful and sustainable", Cllr Birchley said.

All information technology services will still be provided by the council and users will be able to return borrowed items to any other library in the county.

The existing community libraries, staffed purely by volunteers, with no paid employees, have been registered as charities.

This is likely to be the model followed in other areas.

Cllr Birchley encouraged library users to get involved in the consultation and said she was “open to their suggestions”.

She said: "The more community involvement, the better for everybody".

Details about the consultation, including a questionnaire to download and dates for 14 public meetings, can be found at the link below.

The 14 libraries proposed to be 'community partnerships' are:


Chalfont St Peter

Farnham Common

Flackwell Heath

Gerrards Cross

Great Missenden


Iver Heath


Long Crendon