Mobile libraries in Hart and Rushmoor could be lost as Hampshire County Council aims to save £93m by 2015. But the loss of the service could 'destroy' quality of life in rural areas.
Mobile libraries across Hart and Rushmoor face the axe as part of the latest round of budget cuts.
Hampshire County Council is looking to withdraw 115 mobile library services as part of its bid to make £93million in savings by 2015.
In the council’s review of its library service, it is proposing to close stops in Aldershot, Farnborough, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Winchfield, Bramshill, Eversley, Crookham Village, North Warnborough and Rotherwick and Frogmore.
Some councillors said the cuts would ‘destroy’ the quality of life for rural residents. It is anticipated that £300,000 will be saved through a ‘strategic transformation’ of the library service.
This includes transferring the running of some smaller libraries to community groups and withdrawing mobile services.
On behalf of Yateley residents, Cllr Adrian Collett said mobile libraries provided a ‘vital service’ for those who could not get to libraries.
He said this included people who did not own a car or hold a driving licence or people who were too frail to make that journey.
Cllr Collett said: “In the overall Hampshire County Council budget the money that will be saved by cutting the mobile library service so dramatically is actually very small. Yet the impact it will have on the quality of the lives of people who rely on this service will be dramatic.
“Instead of ceasing this service, the council should be promoting it more as many people who might find it very useful don’t even know it exists.
“This will make it even better value for money. They should also be looking at to see what can be done to help people get to the mobile library when it is in town.
“That’s what a council which cares about its vulnerable residents would do. I am not optimistic that the Conservatives running Hampshire will be at all interested in doing this.”
The library bus visits villages and towns every four weeks. They provide a service to people of all ages and are free to use. As well as fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs and audio books can be borrowed.
Cllr David Simpson, who represents Eversley and Hartley Wintney, described mobile libraries as ‘wonderful,’ especially for older people as it encouraged them to get out.
He said: “I think it is devastating. The quality of life for rural residents is being destroyed.
“The people who use these libraries are people who are unlikely to use the internet, unlikely to use eBooks and Kindles.
“It does not matter if its only a half a dozen people using them, these people are going to suffer.”
In order to be successful, the council would expect a mobile library stop to have 10 or more customers, but nearly 100 of the stops have fewer than five customers, said Cllr Keith Chapman, Hampshire’s executive member for culture, recreation and countryside.
“The Frogmore Hall stop only has two regular customers,” he said. “As all council services look to save 12% from spending by 2015, Hampshire’s library service is no exception.
“We have looked at a number of ways we might make some savings, considering what changes would impact the least, while protecting provision for as many people as possible.
“We are, therefore, considering changing the way library services are provided including looking at the least used mobile library stops.
“We realise that the mobile library service is much-loved by its customers but the use of the service is in decline and it is expensive to run.
“We would like to take this opportunity to develop a revised service which is more efficient and provides a mobile library service to communities which is better-used.”
He said the council would be looking into alternative access to library services.
A public consultation into the proposals closes on May 2.