Group is told to find more cuts to library services

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LESS than one week after announcing £300,000 of cuts to libraries, the county council is looking to axe more services.

A working group made up of councillors is looking at what else can be changed.

Councillor Peter Chegwyn, the Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman for culture and communities, said it made for depressing work.

He said: ‘There are very difficult decisions to take.

‘I just find it all very depressing. I will fight to save them.’

Cllr Chegwyn, who represents Hardway in Gosport at the county council, said there is no plan to close any libraries in the area and the group is at an early stage in its work.

But he added more cuts would be coming to the mobile library service, which has already seen 115 stops axed across the county.

He added: ‘My natural inclination is to fight to keep them.

‘People have to fight for the service if they want it.’

Last week Cllr Keith Chapman, Tory executive member for culture, recreation and countryside at Hampshire County Council, said one library was to close. A decision on two others has been deferred.

Back then he said the county council needed to find efficiency savings.

It comes as it was announced the Family Library Link service, which visits 36 nurseries and children’s centres around 10 times a year in Gosport, Portchester and Havant will stop in May 2016 when the bus lease ends.

As reported, the library bus service will cease to operate in some rural areas.

That includes Catherington, Chalton, Denmead, Hambledon, Titchfield, Lower Swanwick, Knowle, Wickham, Swanmore and Soberton.

They will stop running in January.

But the mobile library will continue to stop at other rural places, including Rowlands Castle, Cowplain, Ditcham and Catisfield, following a consultation in the area.

A volunteer-run service still takes books to people who are not capable of getting to a library.

Cllr Chapman said the new working group was set up to try and find an innovative ways to run library services.

He told The News: ‘We’re looking at how often the libraries are being used.

‘It’s two issues looking at use and the money.

‘What is driving me at the moment is the fact that we have to make savings.’

He added the group is trying to find a different approach including asking people in the community to run libraries.

The group is looking at the library service county-wide and there are no specific changes to any in the area yet.

Cllr Chapman added that the county council’s library service offers digital downloads.

A separate scheme helps people swap books with neighbours on someone else’s behalf.