CONTROVERSIAL changes to Worcestershire’s mobile library which come into force on February 1 will see the service cut to a number of villages across Bromsgrove and Droitwich.
The alterations have been made by the county council in a bid to save £100,000 a year towards the £20million to £25million it needs to make annually over the next four years.
The original plans were based on removing every stop within three miles of a main library branch, although some places within that radius have been retained. Villages not on the new schedule include Alvechurch, Burcot, Barnt Green, Charford, Cofton Hackett, Dodford, Fairfield, Friarscroft, Romsley, Salwarpe Ladywood, Shernal Green, Sidemoor and The Westlands.
The current mobile library service uses three vehicles and visits areas on the routes every three weeks.
The new set-up will see one vehicle visit 175 villages in the county, stopping at each one between every four to five weeks.
A total of 993 people use the mobile library service ever year across Worcestershire. But council chiefs say over the last ten years visits have dropped by 40 per cent, loans are down 35 per cent and the cost to the authority is now £3.11 per visit compared to £1.97 for every visit to an actual library branch. The Library at Home Service (LSAH) is also affected.
The move has been slammed by Coun Chris Bloore, Labour’s spokesperson on libraries, who claims the changes will isolate many vulnerable and elderly residents across the county.
“They are being asked to bear the brunt of further massive cuts to this county’s library service.
“We know from the consultation that nearly 65 per cent of those using the mobile library service are over 55 years old and the vast majority walk the short distance to their current mobile stop to access books.
“What are these people going to do now their stop is being axed?
“The worry for me and many of my colleagues is that we know that for many people this is an important link to the outside world and offers them a social experience as well as providing them with access to books and educational services.”
But Coun Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said, in order to meet financial challenges facing the authority, changes to both the mobile library service and the LSAH were needed.
“We can however confirm that by combining a range of delivery options and location stops everyone who currently receives a service will continue to do so, it just might be delivered in a way which is different to the way it is currently provided.”
She added the council was committed to ensuring all LSAH customers received a service and, she said, she was working with those who said they would no longer be able to get to the new mobile library stops due to a disability or health reasons.
She said the consultation had yielded a really good response, everyone’s views had been carefully considered in the decision making process, the changes would be reviewed over the next 12 months and, where necessary, adjusments would be made.