A CONTROVERSIAL bid to get more volunteers helping Worcestershire County Council is to be expanded, it has emerged.

The Conservative leadership, which has overseen a massive surge in the number of unpaid helpers, is aiming to recruit even more to prop up services.

Your Worcester News can reveal how on top the 4,300 people volunteering at County Hall, 400 members of the public are now tending to open spaces like parks.

A new report on volunteers, based around a strategy called 'Act Local', reveals how the council plans to develop it further.

As part of the expansion it aims to recruit a raft of "digital inclusion champions" who will actively go out into communities and promote the access of services online.

It also wants to find more people willing to take over community transport services, on top on the current tally of seven volunteer-operated buses.

It follows this week's bus cuts, including the closure of Perdiswell park and ride, which saved £1.6 million.

Neil Anderson, head of cultural and community services, said: "Act Local doesn't just 'sit' in one area of the council, it's increasingly about how the whole of the council works.

"To some extent we've always done this, but volunteering is now taking on a much grander scale - we're looking to get more people looking after our open spaces, for example, and put the public more at the heart of our organisation and drive it forward."

Speaking during a meeting of the resources scrutiny panel, he admitted part of it was about "saving money" but also defended the strategy.

"The people in our libraries aren't always the type of volunteers that you'd think, often it's unemployed people or graduates out of university, and it can help them find work," he said.

During the meeting councillors asked him for assurances the people coming in were being vetted.

"There's a whole process in place around safeguarding and checks, and that is constantly monitored across all the services," he said.

It comes at a time when the council is looking to hand over 85 per cent of its services to outside providers by 2018, which will include around 1,500 job losses.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "This is a 'cross-council' scheme, rather than in one area and I'm in touch with all the directorates to try and push it."