CLAIMS Worcestershire's UK-leading archives could be sold to private investors are being refuted by council chiefs - despite one politician saying "speculation is rife" it could go.

Councillor Richard Udall, chairman of the county council's Labour group, wants assurances the future of the 12-miles worth of treasured archives will stay in-house.

He says his fears over the asset's future, which is based at the £60 million Hive, are growing because of the need to save money.

The library's archives and archaeology service is already having its funding slashed by 60 per cent, with opening hours cut from 50 hours a week to 25.5 earlier this year.

Staffing also reduced from 25 roles to 20, and a two-hour staffing slot for people using the self-service facilities on a Sunday was scrapped.

Worcestershire's 12 miles of historic archives are among the best in the UK and only one of six nationwide to win 'national accreditation' status.

The council is drawing up cuts of around £25 million per year for the foreseeable future, and is looking to commission as many services as possible to outside providers.

Cllr Udall says he fears the archives are vulnerable due to their value.

He said: "The archives are a key Worcester attraction - people come from all over the world to study documents and make enquiries about family and local history.

"Speculation is rife that the service is about to be either commissioned, sold off or privatised - this should horrify anybody cares about our history.

"We need to know that the archives will remain in safe hands and not sold off to the highest bidder, some things in Worcester should not be for sale and that should include our history, culture and heritage.

"The council need to come clean, we need to know their plans, we need to know our history is not for sale."

The Conservative leadership has insisted it is not looking for any offers for the archives.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "As with all services, we are facing reducing funding and are targeting more and more grants for specific areas.

"But the archives are not for sale, I've heard of no speculation and there are no plans to commission it.

"Our archives are nationally recognised as being at a very good standard."