Outcry as Mobile Library service faces axe

Conservative councillors and residents in Bath and North East Somerset have reacted with outrage at plans by the Liberal Democrat-run authority to axe entirely the council’s Mobile Library service.

As part of their budget plans for 2012 the Liberal Democrat Cabinet is proposing that that the service, which largely serves outlying areas of the authority but also many parts of Bath including Larkhall, Twerton and the London Road, be shut down and replaced with an extension of the council’s volunteer-led home delivery service.

Conservative councillors have said that this cut represents yet another hit to the authority’s outer-lying communities and disadvantaged residents. Conservatives have vowed to fight the plans, arguing that many residents, especially the elderly, rely upon the Mobile Library for its social aspect and contact with the council as well the ability to browse for books.

Details of the plan to replace the mobile library with an extended home-delivery service have yet to be released. However Conservatives have said it is unlikely to represent a like-for-like replacement to the Mobile Library which so many residents value, and could possibly result in a cost to residents for the home delivery.

Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Cllr Martin Veal, said:

“The Lib Dems’ plan to axe the Mobile Library service completely would represent yet another huge blow to disadvantaged residents throughout B&NES, but especially older residents and those in outer-lying communities. For many residents the Mobile Library is their only regular contact with a council service as many parts of the authority don’t have a proper library or Council Connect point anywhere near them.”

Cllr Tim Warren, who is Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group and represents the rural Mendip ward, added:

“The plan to replace the Mobile Library with an extended home-delivery service completely misses the point that so many residents rely upon the social aspect and convenience of the mobile library, and would leave many residents isolated. This proposal will simply increase the inequality of service many residents receive from their council, and comes on top of a refusal by the Lib Dems to invest in improving rural broadband.”

Vito Pecchia, Chairman of Batheaston Parish Council, commented:

“The closure of the mobile library service is yet another blow to rural areas. Times are difficult we know, but why is it always rural areas have to take the brunt of cuts? Who and how do they make these decisions anyway? Have they no sense of fairness and justice, do they not understand our villages have elderly people and mothers with young children who rely on this service, and how much are they going to save I wonder? If cuts there must be let them at least be proportionate and fair, let’s start maybe, with a reduction in salaries of council top earners and consultants!”