THE leader of Worcestershire County Council has defended a move to slash library services - saying it could have been far worse.

Councillor Adrian Hardman says the only reason no libraries are earmarked for closure is because of massive efforts by staff to recruit volunteers.

As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, a series of significant changes have been announced as part of £2.7 million of library cuts.

The mobile library service is set to scrap around half of its 430 stops and reduce in frequency to just once a month, rather than three-weekly.

Opening hours at all libraries are also under review, including Worcester's £60 million Hive.

But crucially, not a single library will close and solutions are being finalised to keep a raft of them open by launching trusts and relying on volunteers, including sites in Upton, Broadway, Bewdley and Wythall.

Cllr Hardman said: "What we've always set out to do is allow our communities to take ownership of their libraries, and what this shows very clearly is the route we've gone down.

"The Secretary of State (Culture Secretary Sajid Javid) was in Worcester only last week commending the approach this county has taken, a report is being finished off around the future of libraries in the country and he said what he'd seen in Worcestershire would help him form his conclusions.

"I was talking to the leader of a South West council recently who was taking a rather more brutalist approach to libraries.

"I'd like to thank our communities for coming forward to ensure our libraries are still able to run, with the backing of our professional officers."

On the libraries being ran by the trusts, each group is signing a contract with the county council.

The deals will include 'get out' clauses if either party is unhappy with the arrangement.

At each site there will still be professional librarians, but most of the time the opening hours will be manned by volunteers drawn from the likes of town councils.

The mobile library cuts are subject to a three-month consultation, and includes reducing four vehicles down to just one and deleting all stops within a three-mile radius of a library.

It also emerged yesterday that it is used by around 2,300 customers.