Government cuts have been blamed as Cornwall Council looks set to slash the mobile library service, leaving just one van serving the whole of the county.
The council says that members of Cornwall Council’s cabinet have "listened to the views of local residents on the importance of the mobile library service" and have chosen an option that retains one mobile library van to "service a reduced number of stops" despite facing a "50 per cent reduction in the mobile library budget from £310,000 to £155,000 in the current financial year".
Following the decision, from April 1, 2015, a single mobile library van will provide a monthly service to 172 stops across Cornwall,
This is a huge reduction on the existing 665 stops, and under the plan the service will also be less frequent. Any remaining stop which does not have at least 3 regular customers could be cut in the future.
The council is also "developing more micro libraries in local communities and expanding the Home Library Service, following "significant cuts in government funding the Council needs to find savings of £196m over the next five years".
The council is also "identifying further efficiencies, including a reduction in the number of senior managers".
A council spokesman said: "Faced with a 50 per cent reduction in the mobile library budget from £310,000 to £155,000 in the current financial year, the Council has carried out one of the most comprehensive consultation exercises ever staged to find out the views of service users on the future of the service.
"More than 2,600 members of the public took part in the 12 week consultation , which included questionnaires delivered to all current mobile library service users and available at libraries and one stop shops and meetings with organisations and community groups. The results showed the over whelming majority of members of the public wanted to retain a mobile library service in Cornwall, but many communities also expressed an interest in developing micro libraries in the local community."
Adam Paynter, the council’s cabinet member for partnerships said “It is clear that the mobile library service is highly valued but, at the same time, many people recognised the financial pressures that the Council is facing.
“Rather than go for the two original options of retaining two mobile vans, which would not deliver the savings needed to also develop more micro libraries across Cornwall, or cutting all five vans and then using the funding to develop micro libraries and expand the home delivery service, we are proposing a third option which provides a reduced mobile library service at the same time as delivering the savings we need to make and also provides funding to develop the other aspects of the service.
“I would like to thank all the members of the public who took the time to give us their views, and the staff who helped organise the consultation. This was not an easy decision to make. I am particularly encouraged by the enthusiasm of the 33 local communities who have already expressed an interest in developing a micro library in their area and look forward to working with them and with local members. “
Under Option 3, which will now be implemented by April 1, 2015, a single mobile library van will provide a monthly service to 172 stops across Cornwall. Further discussions will now take place with local Cornwall Councillors and communities to identify which stops best meet the needs of specific local areas.
There are currently seven micro libraries in Cornwall that operate as part of the Councils library service, five “Pub is the Hub” schemes, one in Roche Community café and also in the St Dennis Community Centre.
Under this option the Council will provide up to a £1,000 funding to develop a further 28 schemes in the first year, with more funding available in subsequent years. These could be set up in a variety of venues, including village halls and community centres, schools, village shops and post offices and churches.
Funding will also be used to expand the Home Library Service which is delivered in partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service. There are currently 571 registered users of the service which uses RVS volunteers to deliver library books to members of the library who are unable to access either a static or mobile library.
The council says that the results of the consultation show that there are "a considerable number of vulnerable people who could benefit from this service". This option will enable additional funding to be provided to potentially increase the number of users to 1,000.