THE future of libraries in the Wokingham borough will be in the spotlight again tomorrow (Thursday) when councillors are expected to move one step closer to privatising the service.

Wokingham Borough Council's executive committee is due to approve plans to move to the tendering stage of the process after more than 20 companies submitted bids in June last year to take control.

Four shortlisted companies were then challenged to speak to councillors about how they would improve the library service if they were successful in their bid for the five-year contract.

The agenda of the executive committee states: "Most importantly, we want to find a partner that can offer real value for money to help us develop an improved library service for the 21st century." It is hoped that the partnership will save the council �170,000 each year, but the plans led to uproar from residents who feared library closures, job losses and cuts in services. It also brought the first debate in the history of the council triggered by a public petition, which contained 1,500 signatures.

The agenda states: "The council recommends to the executive that they review their decision on the future of the library service after the competitive tender, to take account of public feeling as expressed by the petition.

"The council is very aware of the high regard with which the library service is held and respects and appreciates the fact that libraries are well loved and utilised facilities." The tender process is expected to run until May before the executive committee review the outcome at a meeting in June.