Libraries might have to close unless further savings of £500,000 can be found.

Hertfordshire County Council has been forced to cut £2.5million from the service's budget in the past four years, but now needs to make further savings.

It launched a consultation earlier this year, in which residents and users supported creating a 'public service mutual' (PSM) to run libraries.

The proposal - effectively agreeing to create a new organisation - will be considered by councillors on the education, libraries and localism panel on Thursday.

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.”

If the proposal to create a PSM is approved by the council's cabinet on Monday, a procurement process is likely to begin in spring 2019, with a contract to run services expected to start in autumn 2019.

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.”