Bid to save West Sussex libraries

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Axing a personalised library service to residential care homes and sheltered housing would be ‘another nail in the coffin’ for vulnerable people, it was warned this week.

Members of the county council’s community services select committee called for a rethink on proposals to axe the service in order to save £75,000.

Options under consideration for the library service are aimed at helping the local authority reach its target of saving £79m across all services over three years.

Cllr Graham Tyler told the meeting: “The elderly and vulnerable are taking big hits at the moment from all sides – this would be another nail in the coffin.”

The select committee agreed to express broad support for an overall package of savings for the whole library service, designed to achieve £650,000 savings, and welcomed the fact there were no plans to close any libraries.

But it asked Cllr Lionel Barnard, the cabinet member who will make the final decisions, to explore ‘other opportunities and arrangements’ before cutting services to residential homes.

Cllr Tyler said he ‘implored’ Cllr Barnard to look again at the £75,000 saving proposed for these services.

And Cllr Dave Simmons said this cut would focus on a small part of the community to a disproportionate effect.

“This should be close to our hearts because we have legal obligations to make sure we are dealing with things equally,” he declared.

Chairman Cllr Pat Arculus passed round copies of an anonymous letter delivered to her home which claimed the homes service was a ‘lifeline’ for many people.

Cllr Barnard said he was looking at ways of delivering the service, either through the homes or with volunteers. “This isn’t something we will cut from day one,” he added.

Other proposals being considered for 2012-13 include a reduction in the media fund, used to buy library stock, to £1m, saving £200,000, and a half-year review of fines, reservation fees and DVD/CD rentals to increase library income. Options for 2013-14 include the introduction of self-service machines in more libraries.