THE campaign group battling to keep Oxfordshire’s libraries has claimed County Hall’s latest plans contain “major gaps and unfounded claims”.

Save Oxfordshire Libraries was formed earlier this year, when 20 branches were at risk of losing their funding.

After a council u-turn, County Hall’s latest proposals would see the entire network saved but many of the 43 branches left relying on volunteers to help staff them.

The pressure group has criticised the the plans, saying they are “unfair to rural communities” and the proposals were based on “weak evidence.”

Members of the group have asked for full costings of recruiting, training and managing volunteers, details of how responsibilities would be divided between volunteers and professional staff, and information on whether any alternative plans have been costed by the council.

Chairman Judith Wardle said: “Save Oxfordshire Libraries would like to offer its own proposals, and the consultation asks for people’s own ideas.

“But we need information from the council to make this possible.

“We have nothing against volunteers, but they should be working with professional staff, not instead of professional staff.”

The group has sent nine questions and requests for information through to the council.

Its analysis of the authority’s proposal concludes: “The council’s proposal is based on poorly referenced and explained data, on figures and a methodology that are seriously flawed, and falls below a standard for a public consultation document.”

It has also asked whether outsourcing the running of the service to American firm LSSI is still under consideration in the longer term.

Council leader Keith Mitchell previously told the Oxford Mail it had been ruled out for the short term because LSSI had no experience in the UK, but added that the option could be revisited in the future.

Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “Oxfordshire County Council has a plan to keep all 43 libraries open while still making some savings to contribute to the difficult task of saving £119m over coming years.

"These proposals are under consultation and they are the council’s response to feedback received during the first part of 2011.

“Save Oxfordshire Libraries has responded to the consultation and have also asked some questions. We welcome their comments and will respond to their questions in due course.”

To have your say on the council’s libraries proposals, go online at, email or write to Letters to the Editor, Oxford Mail, Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 0EJ