County council cuts: 16 sheltered housing schemes in Wisbech, March, Whittlesey and Chatteris face having mobile library withdrawn

Removal of the mobile library service

Removal of the mobile library service - Credit: Archant

Six sheltered housing schemes in Wisbech, three in Chatteris, four in March and three in Whittlesey will be hit by the county council’s proposals to axe mobile libraries.

The mobile library service is currently delivered by four vehicles, which are operated by driver library assistants. They serve 250 communities through around 420 monthly visits

The council says that to “mitigate the impact of this service cut” it is planned to withdraw the service over a two year period.

This will give those communities “most in need of the service time to make alternative arrangements” including use of community transport and recruitment of volunteers to take library books to the housebound.

“It will also allow time for discussions to take place around potential alternative models, such as micro-library provision with small communities and box collections for residential homes,” says a report to councillors.

The council says all residential and sheltered homes will have their mobile library service withdrawn “and there will not be a replacement”.

The report admits that the cuts will hit Fenland, with 12 of the county’s 16 most deprived areas of deprivation, particularly hard.

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The cuts are part of a package of savings announced by the council earlier this week- although it is now clear changes to library services in Cambridgeshire will be spread across two years.

Main stream libraries will also be hit – the county has 32 libraries, 25 designated community libraries, six ‘hub’ libraries and Cambridgeshire Central Library. There are also ten community run libraries that were set up 12 years ago following previous funding reductions.

“In order to meet challenging savings targets it is proposed that opening hours at larger libraries to be reduced by up to10 hours per week,” says the report.

Funding will be withdrawn from a number of community libraries cross the county. The council may move libraries to community buildings with volunteers recruited to run them.

The report believes that the changes will still maintain the council’s statutory duties to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services.

“It is required to keep adequate stocks of books, information, pictures, music, films etc. and to encourage adults and children to make full use of the service,” says the report.

“The key priority for the service is to undertake a comprehensive review in order to define a new strategy for the future delivery of the service which meets statutory requirements and community needs whilst making significant savings – in the region of £1million over the next two years.”

It is expected that three fifths of the savings will be achieved in the next financial year.

Jobs are likely to go within the library service including those ‘community engagement staff’ that organise events within local libraries.

The report says: “These teams support and encourage the army of volunteers (more than 600) that provide computer buddy sessions, listen to children reading during the Summer Reading Challenge or deliver books and digital audio to people in their homes.

“These proposals would result in a reduction in the number of professional staff in the team, with a resulting reduction in the activities above and their contribution to the council’s priority outcomes for Cambridgeshire people.”

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