Hampshire County Council is undergoing “colossal back office savings” to help with their financial position, as criticism ramps up over their consultation which could see ten libraries closed.

In an interview with the Gazette, Councillor Sean Woodward, HCC’s executive member for recreation and heritage, said that the council was working behind the scenes to save money, as well as potential cuts to public services that have been reported.

Ten libraries across the county, including Chineham, South Ham and Odiham, could be closed and other libraries have their hours cut by 15 per cent as part of the consultation to shape the future of the county's library service.

Alternatively, they could stay open, with all sites having a 25 per cent reduction in hours.

Speaking of the current financial savings, Cllr Woodward said: “There are procurement savings that have been tremendous, there are things on agency staff, savings on our property portfolio.

“Even then [if ten libraries were closed], there would still be £12 million a year being spent on libraries and we’ll still have at least 38 libraries in the county. The requirement is to have at least one per district, and we’re more than triple that.

“We spend £1 million per day looking after our older residents in adult social care. If you say to somebody where would you put your priority - would it be say knocking an hour off the library or getting your grandmother out of bed in the morning so she can live a normal life, where would you choose?

“These are very difficult choices and we’ve had to save half a billion pounds per year out of our budget over the last ten years. The political decision is that adult social care is an absolute priority.”

He also addressed residents fury over the potential closure of Chineham library. HCC has received 15,000 responses to their consultation - an all time record - and Chineham has over 1,000 of them. Cllr Woodward says that he has received more direct contact regarding this library than any other.

“A library is going to be at the top [of the list of most important sites], and another at the bottom, and Chineham happens to be at the top of that list. There is already overlap, people use more than one library. There are significant numbers that use Chineham, South Ham and Basingstoke.

“You might end up with five closed and a 20 per cent reduction in opening hours, for the sake of argument. Or we may have other solutions. It’s not the fault of Chineham library but it is one of our most expensive libraries to run. So if people come to me with other solutions, I’ll be very interested to hear them. If the costs go down, potentially it would fall out of the list anyway.”