UNISON says that the vulnerable and isolated will be hit hardest– and vows to fight to keep services
Public service trade union UNISON warns that cuts to Hampshire’s Mobile Libraries will come as a devastating blow to the thousands who rely on this valued service to access library books. This is the next front-line service to face the axe under proposed Hampshire County Council spending cuts. Proposals unveiled last week would see a massive 60% cut to the Mobile Libraries budget, resulting in the loss of 13 vehicles, 18 jobs and leave just 344 stops out of an existing 1200 in communities across Hampshire.
Particularly hard hit will be women and the elderly who make up the overwhelming majority of regular mobile users. Similarly the proposals could leave care home residents, an estimated two thirds of whom have mobility problems, without any access to library services. Currently four mobile libraries visit care homes, providing room visits to residents who are unable to board the vehicle. This service would be scrapped under the proposals, which would also see annual charges introduced for deposit collections of books at care homes.
Schools and playgroups will also no longer receive dedicated stops and the successful Family Library Link service, specifically designed to serve areas of social deprivation around Leigh Park, is to be axed.
UNISON, the public service trade union, has vowed to fight the cuts. Library Shop Stewards Secretary, Steve Squibbs, called the cuts ‘unfair, disproportionate and mean’ and accused the council of, ‘targeting the most vulnerable and isolated of Hampshire’s residents’. He said: ‘Hampshire’s Mobile Libraries are widely recognised as a first-class service that we can all be proud of, but these proposals amount to its virtual destruction. In their rush to push through cuts, HCC will effectively be leaving many elderly and disabled people without any access to library services. The idea of charging care homes for deposit collections is a scandal – who else in Hampshire has to pay to access library services in this way?’
Mr Squibbs described the proposals to end dedicated stops to schools and playgroups as, ‘incredibly short-sighted’ and cited the scrapping of the Family Library Link in Leigh Park as further evidence that the poorest in society would suffer most from public spending cuts asking, ‘how can the council justify axing this valued service when it is sitting on reserves of £130 million?’
Mr Squibbs also accused the council of drip-feeding bad news over library cuts: ‘HCC has already said that it can’t rule out closing smaller libraries. The people of Hampshire need to be told the truth about the future of their library service – if there are plans to close library branches in the future then the last thing the council should be considering now is getting rid of its mobiles. Unless we are given the full picture now this consultation will just be a sham.’ Mr Squibbs also said the consultation period, ending 14 February, was ‘ridiculously short’.
UNISON is encouraging local communities, groups and individuals to come forward to help organise a campaign to defend the Mobile Library Service. Those interested in the campaign can contact Hampshire UNISON, St Thomas’ Centre, Southgate Street, Winchester, SO23 9EF on 01962 842094 or email email@example.com
* UNISON is the UK’s largest public sector trade union with approximately 1.3 million members.
It represents 850,000 Staff in local government and approximately 300 library staff within Hampshire. UNISON offers advice, representation and protection at work to our members.
UNISON offers advice, representation and protection at work to our members.
UNISON has launched its Million Voices campaign in defence of essential services to the public. Services that protect, enrich and change lives. But our members don’t just work in public services – they and their families rely on them too.
We believe that cutting back public service spending and putting our services in the hands of private companies through more privatisation puts all our communities at risk. UNISON is speaking up for public services and for the people who provide them. That’s why we are campaigning at a national, regional and local community level to make the case for properly-funded, publicly-provided local services.
For more information please visit: http://www.unison.org.uk/million/