Essex County Council Mobile Library

Article by Charles Thompson: A charity for elderly people has criticised an Essex Council plot to axe more than 80 per cent of Basildon’s mobile library services.

Age UK Essex said the planned cuts would have a ’disproportionate effect’ on the borough’s OAPs and warned that local elderly people could become more isolated as a result.

County Hall wants to ’redraw’ mobile library routes, axing any stops within two miles of a library. It wants local residents to run community libraries and home book deliveries, unpaid, instead.

The proposal would wipe out 17 of the 21 stops across the Basildon borough – 13 of which are outside homes for the elderly.

Services would stop visiting 10 sheltered housing schemes, two care homes and a retirement complex.

The proposal has provoked cross-party anger, with Labour, UKIP and independent councillors coming together at a mobile library stop in Billericay yesterday to protest the plan.

Basildon Tory leader Phil Turner has urged the community to respond en masse to a public consultation over the plot.

Independent county councillor Kerry Smith said:

“It’s outrageous. Looking at this, you might think Essex Council thought it was a crime to be old. It’s taking away a service that provides people with a little bit of enjoyment, comfort and leisure.”

In Billericay, six sheltered housing schemes face the axe; Hill House Court, Old Farm Court, Park Lodge, Carvers Wood, Allington Court and Buckwyns Court.

In Basildon, the service would stop visiting a sheltered housing scheme in Southwood Court and the Ghyll Grove Care Home. A second care home – Gifford House, Bowers Gifford – would also go.

In Pitsea, sheltered housing schemes in Ravensfield Court and Brackendale Court face the chop, whilst in Wickford the service would stop visiting a retirement home in Sycamore Court and a sheltered housing scheme in Eliot Close.

Willie Docherty, chief executive of Age UK Essex, said:

“We are disappointed to learn of the proposed cuts to the mobile library service. Libraries are a lifeline and a crucial public service, especially if you are elderly or socially isolated. The potential cuts across the Basildon and Billericay area will have a disproportionate effect on the elderly, who rely on the library vans for their reading material. It’s also a safe, trusted place to meet friends and neighbours, a place for learning, information and leisure. Without it, you are potentially forcing more older people into social isolation.”

Cllr Turner agreed:

“With OAPs, this sort of service might not just be giving out books. It might also be giving them a bit more of a social life and making sure they have contact with others. It’s absolutely imperative that those centres get wind of the consultation and give a response, and that council staff and councillors make a response on behalf of their centres.”

County Hall claims seven of its nine mobile libraries are ’coming to the end of their working lives’ and that use of the service has dropped by 50 per cent in the last seven years.

Stops more than two miles from a library building may still be cut if Essex Council feels they are not used ’consistently’ enough, and even those which survive may be cut to one visit a month.

Residents can fill out a consultation survey at their local library or mobile library, or do so online at: http://libraries.essex.gov.uk/news/mobile-library-service-consultation.

The consultation closes on November 6.

Article by Charles Thompson, Yellow Advertiser

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