MOBILE libraries will no longer visit Buckhurst Hill as the county council moves to shake up the service with volunteer led centres.

According to a revised timetable to be voted on by Essex County councillors on Tuesday (January 23), the fortnightly Friday stops the mobile library currently makes in three Buckhurst Hill locations will be cut.

Limes Farm in Chigwell will also be passed and stops in Epping reduced from three to one, in a move that could save the council £174,000 a year.

Across the county 557 stops will fall to 213 when seven of nine library trucks, each holding 2,000 books and costing £60,000 a year to be replaced, are decommissioned in May this year.

Council officers argue the service is too expensive in its current form and not adequately used.

In the past six years 120,578 annual visits recorded in 2010/11 has dropped to 64,289.

Stops such as Lower Nazeing, which survives the cuts because it is more than two miles from a traditional library, were visited 3.84 times a fortnight on average.

Councillor Sue Barker, cabinet member for culture, communities and customers, said: “We’ve listened to what people told us and as a result, changed some of our original proposals.

“More than 1,400 people and organisations took part in the consultation, and of those, 82 per cent supported the proposal to withdraw mobile library stops where there had been no visitors for over six months, 68 per cent agreed with the proposal to extend stop times, and 63 per cent of people agreed that stops which served the same community should be merged.”

To fill the hole left by the reduced service, the council is calling on volunteers to set up ‘Community Libraries’.

Between July and September, 2017 the concept was tested in Ramsey War Memorial Hall, Beuamont Village Hall and Bradfield Community Centre, with ECC providing books and guidance In Beaumont and Ramsey residents had complete control, taking charge of advertising, membership and events.

In Bradfield a different model was tested, where council staff ran the library a half-day a week and then volunteers opened it at times of their choosing.

Both were deemed successful and now 50 more locations across the area are being considered for community libraries.

Cllr Baker added: “New community libraries would be run by volunteers, with the County Council’s support, and we can now start work on assessing the sites.

‘This is a really important development because it means greater access to books, at a time and location which is more convenient, more community involvement and most important of all, a greater contribution to removing social isolation.”

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