Libraries could shut under plans to axe £500,000 from the budget.

Hertfordshire County Council is also considering cutting opening hours and reducing the range of services and support it offers.

The authority has already been forced to cut £2.5million from the library service budget in the last four years, but now needs to make further savings.

It launched a consultation earlier this year to get residents’ and library users’ views on proposals to operate its library service in a different way.

The consultation showed that people would prefer a Public Service Mutual (PSM), which is used in other parts of the country.

Terry Douris, cabinet member for libraries, said: “We know how much our residents value their libraries, and we do too.

“The reason we are going through this process is quite simply to find the best way to ensure that Hertfordshire libraries continue to thrive into the future. At the same time, we have made savings of around £2.5million from the library service budget, and we now have to find £500,000 of further savings.

“If we didn’t look at an alternative way of delivering our much-loved service, we would have to consider closing libraries, cutting opening hours, and reducing the range of services and support we offer. We do not want to do any of these things, as all of them would be contrary to the ambitions we set out in our inspiring libraries plan.”

Councillors will be considering the next steps in the Inspiring Libraries strategy at a meeting of the Education, Libraries and Localism cabinet panel on Thursday. If they decide to create a PSM, the procurement process will begin in spring 2019 and be developed in autumn 2019.

Over the last four years the county council has invested £4 million in library buildings and technology, whilst making savings in the services revenue budget due to “continued pressures.”

Cllr Douris, added: “This is a really important process and we want to do everything in our power to make sure we find the best future solution for our libraries. Whatever we decide to do, we will not be selling off our libraries – we’ve got a statutory responsibility to provide library services, so any independent organisation will be accountable to the council for the provision of the service and the council will remain accountable to local residents.”