The future of the county’s tourist information centres could be under threat after Wiltshire Council announced five of the centres may be handed over to community groups.

Currently TICs at Avebury, Devizes, Marlborough Library and Salisbury are run by VisitWiltshire, an independent company that’s largely funded by Wiltshire Council, while Corsham is run by a local development trust.

Wiltshire Council is taking back control of these TICs with a view to handing them to community trusts, in a similar fashion as their leisure centre review.

The plan will leave VisitWiltshire to work on marketing the county to draw in more visitors who stay longer and spend more. It would mean that funding for VisitWiltshire will be reduced gradually from £790,000 this year to £500,000 in 2013.

Funding for TICs will be reviewed – and potentially cut – in December after the council learned that the TICs come into contact with only about two per cent of visitors to the county.

Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “We want to see if they (the TICs) are value for money. Nowadays if you go to a new town you go to the internet for information.”

Maggie Moore, a former manager of the TICs in Devizes and Avebury, said both should continue to have TICs operating. She said: “It would be a great shame if they close.

“All visitors to an area look for a TIC to find out what is happening locally, opening times, where to stay.”

Corsham TIC is run by the Corsham Area Development Trust and receives £25,000 a year from Wiltshire Council to cover the cost of its staff.

Ian Storey, from the CADT, said: “We will fight our corner when the funding arrangement for TICs is reviewed. We’ve already had to make one position redundant. We are exploring all other roads at the moment.”

However, news that Wiltshire Council is planning to hand over the running of tourist information centres to community groups was welcomed by former Marlborough Mayor Peggy Dow.

She said it would be a return to the days when the town TIC was run successfully by a volunteer team in St Peter’s Church.

Mrs Dow said: “If the council does ask community groups to take them over then I know that the one in Marlborough will continue to be run successfully and be an asset both to the town and to tourists as it was in the past.”