Mobile library service to be reduced as part of Warwickshire County Council saving cuts

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The county’s mobile library service is set to be reduced as part of ongoing council cuts across Warwickshire.

Warwickshire County Council’s Cabinet agreed at its meeting on Thursday to redesign the mobile library service and operate with a smaller fleet.

The changes are part of the savings plan agreed for the libraries service, which has had to make £2m savings since 2011, and will save a further £95,000 by the end of March 2014.

The mobile library service currently operates with a fleet of five vehicles.

The council has been examining proposals to operate it with a reduced fleet of three.

Data, such as number of customers, book loans and information enquiries, was used to review how efficiently the 450 mobile library stops were working and whether there was scope to deliver a more cost-effective service to the 3,650 registered customers.

Criteria were drawn up for the withdrawal of stops including;

· levels of use, with stops requiring at least four customers on a regular basis and

· potential for customers to access alternative library service such as deposit book collections or housebound delivery service

In exceptional circumstances, where accessibility or rural isolation meant that customers could not easily use other stops, no changes were put forward.

In all, it was calculated that the stops of 278 customers would be recommended for withdrawal. Plans were drawn up to minimise the impact for them.

The proposed schedules for the revised service were sent to all mobile library customers for feedback prior to an extensive engagement with the public over the summer:

senior managers from libraries attended all 30 community forums and 10 older people’s forums across the county to listen to people’s opinions and comments and to explain the proposals.

· By merging stops close to each other, 110 customers will be near to a proposed alternative

· 38 customers will be eligible for the Housebound Delivery Service

· A further 103 will be offered a deposit collection in their residential home

· The remaining customers, estimated at 27, will be provided with full details of their nearest mobile library stops or static library

· In addition, nurseries which have previously been visited by mobile libraries will be contacted by the Schools Library Service. This works with many other nurseries throughout Warwickshire, offering a subscription which provides a regular delivery of a collection of titles on extended loan with regularly refreshed stock.

Cllr Colin Hayfield, portfolio holder for customers, said: “As part of making £2m of savings, we have had to look at every area of the library service, including the mobile library service. We have tried to minimise the impact of the reduction in the number of vehicles.

“The changes to the service will mean that the smaller fleet will work harder and dedicate resources to stops that have been more widely used and we will work more with our network of volunteers.

“Staff have worked very hard indeed to scrutinise data on use of mobile library stops and to take on board the views of customers. They have explained to anyone losing their previous regular stops what the alternatives are and many customers have been very satisfied that the new service proposals will meet their needs.”

Cllr Richard Chattaway, chair of Communities Overview and Scrutiny, said: “Scrutiny considered the proposals and whilst not passing a formal recommendation to Cabinet, we will be keeping an interest in the impact on Warwickshire’s communities.”