The day-to-day management of the Wandsworth and Croydon libraries could soon be taken over by outside organisations, it has emerged.

Wandsworth councillors are to consider a joint market testing exercise with Croydon Council, which would examine whether external bodies could run libraries across both boroughs.

The providers would be tested against the existing in-house service to see if the new approach could result in improvements and cost savings, according to town hall bosses.

The council's executive member for environment and culture, Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: "With the need to make £70mn of savings by 2015 we need to look at better, more cost effective ways of delivering services.

"The easy option would be to follow what other councils are doing and close branch libraries. Instead we want to do everything possible to protect our libraries while looking at ways to enhance the excellent service our residents expect.

"By sharing our buying power with other local authorities it may be possible to get a better return for the investment we put in. These are all things that will be considered as part of that investigation."

The study will also look at new ways of involving residents and community organisations in library management, with the aim that each branch could then provide a service more closely tailored to a specific area's needs.

It will also establish whether a third-party organisation could benefit from seeking out commercial opportunities, and find new ways of raising funds for each branch.

Other services and organisations may be given the opportunity to base themselves in library buildings, which officials believe could save them money and improving their presence in communities.

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