Mobile libary cuts are criticised

CONTROVERSIAL plans to cut mobile library services in Essex were criticised yesterday. Essex County Council is currently looking to reduce the number of its vehicles by more than a third, from 16 to 10, saying some of its fleet are outdated and no longer suitable for the job.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to cut mobile library services in Essex were criticised yesterday.

Essex County Council is currently looking to reduce the number of its vehicles by more than a third, from 16 to 10, saying some of its fleet are outdated and no longer suitable for the job.

But many elderly people, especially in rural communities reliant on the service, are concerned about the impact the changes could have.

The council said it hoped the plans would increase efficiency and give value for money - while still attempting to maintain an acceptable level of service.


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But following a meeting to develop the policy yesterday, the Liberal Democrat group at Essex County Council said it was refusing to endorse the plans.

Theresa Higgins, spokeswoman for community services, said: “Conservative plans to reduce mobile library services will affect the elderly and disabled the most, defeating the object of getting libraries out into the community.

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“At a time when the population is ageing, it is vital to preserve access to reading and learning for those who are unable to get to static libraries.”

She added: “I am also concerned that this appears to be part of the county council's cost-cutting exercise, which the Conservatives have said will not affect frontline services.

“In the light of that, this proposal throws up questions about staff redundancies that were not sufficiently addressed in today's meeting.”

The mobile library service currently operates on a weekly basis with 13 vehicles visiting 640 stops across the county.

Three other mobiles visit old people's homes and sheltered accommodation on a four-weekly cycle.

Last night, Iris Pummel, the cabinet member in charge of community services, said the 10 remaining buses would all be the latest models, especially equipped for access for elderly and disabled people.

“The ones that we are considering getting rid of are ageing, out-of-date ones, that quite honestly we don't have the money for as we have to find savings of £100million.

“We have got a good network of 'libraries direct' where books are delivered to people's homes right across the county.

“This is about better services for local people. There could be job losses, but there needn't be.”

The plans will now go out to the public for consultation and a decision is due later this year.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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