Axe falls on mobile library service in Hampshire

A mobile library in Leigh Park
A mobile library in Leigh Park

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USERS of mobile libraries have been told to use them or lose them as the county council cuts the number of stops that the service makes.

In a cash-saving move, Hampshire County Council has cut the number of calls made by the service from 2,400 to 361 per month.

The reduction, while huge, is still less severe than the one originally proposed thanks to a campaign by supporters which forced the council to revise its plans.

The new arrangements will be on a 12-month trial.

If the libraries are not used by enough people, the axe could fall again in a year’s time.

The number of vehicles in use is to drop from 19 to four full time, with four being held in reserve.

New routes were approved on Tuesday by Councillor Keith Chapman, who took over as the council’s leader for culture from Cllr Margaret Snaith-Tempia.

He said: ‘Our mobile library service is one of the biggest in the country.

‘It was not working efficiently or effectively and had to be reviewed.

‘We want to provide a service to areas where there is limited or no public transport and the residents do not have good access to their own transport, to rural sheltered accommodation and to individuals who are housebound.’

The council believes it can cut between £550,000 to £600,000 from its annual £960,000 spend.

Many stops fell foul of a new rule which meant the vehicles would not call at any places within two miles of a static library and that there should be no more than one stop per community.

The council received 199 complaints when the proposed cuts were initially announced at the beginning of the year.

In response, the council has cut 35 more stops, but added 52 extra ones across the county.

From July the mobile libraries will call at some places for 20 minutes, while longer stops will last two to three hours.

Shorter stops must attract 10 customers per stop and longer ones 50 customers, or the service faces being pulled from the route after the 12-month trial.

The council has pledged to restock the four vehicles with new books, and remove DVDs and CDs. It will keep one extra mobile library in case one of the four vehicles breaks down, one to stand in when static libraries close for refurbishment, and two for the Family Library Link.

Where and when

Full details of exact times for mobile library stops will be released by the council in May.

Changes from the original proposals to affect our area are:

· Hayling Island – Nutbourne Road, Eastoke, added instead of Northney Church.

· Widley – Applewood Grove, included instead of The Woodman at Purbrook.

· Fareham – Hill Park Club and Buckingham Court

· Horndean – Winkfield Row is removed from the service as within two miles of Horndean library

· Clanfield – Lith View car park, added back to service.