Budget cuts hit 'lifeline' mobile library service
TWO mobile libraries which serve residents in rural areas are being axed as part of an ongoing programme of council cuts.
Cheshire East Council wants to slash its library provision to rural communities in a bid to save around £95,000-a-year.
Currently, the authority's three mobile libraries make 254 stops at 130 communities and call at each stop fortnightly.
The vans also deliver books to pre-school nurseries and elderly care homes.
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If the changes go ahead, the mobile library service will no longer make stops at any location which is within two miles of a library. That would mean just under 50 current stops would be scrapped, including those at Church Lawton and Oakhanger, near Alsager, Leighton, Gresty and Wistaston Green, near Crewe, and parts of Congleton.
Areas which are still serviced by the remaining mobile library will in future be visited once every three weeks, instead of fortnightly.
The council may also alter the day, time and exact point where the mobile library stops in villages which do still receive the service.
But the Tory-led council says it will continue to offer the Books on Wheels service to vulnerable people who are physically unable to get to a library.
Conservative councillor Brian Silvester, below, who represents the Willaston and Rope ward, near Crewe, said: "The mobile library is an important service and it needs to be retained with the maximum coverage possible."
Labour councillor Sam Corcoran, who represents Sandbach Heath and East, said: "Cutting the mobile libraries from three to one would save £95,000 a year. The Conservatives claim the cuts to services are necessary because of lack of money, but they can find £80,000 for a temporary chief executive for three months."
The authority is facing up to a £13 million funding gap in 2013/14 and has approved a business plan for 2012 to 2015, which identifies net savings of £7.9 million across departments.
Reg Hodgkinson, aged 62, of Wistaston Green, said: "It's a lifeline to a lot of elderly people who can't get out to the library."
Jenny Faulkner, aged 35, also of Wistaston Green added: "I think it's a necessary service. Older people rely on it."
A Cheshire East Council spokesman said: "We have identified several proposed changes to our mobile library service that we believe will help it run more efficiently and fairly for all of our residents.
"It will also ensure that the service continues to operate in our more remote communities."
Consultation on the cuts is taking place until Wednesday, May 23. Residents can respond at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk.