Letter to Adam Paynter, Portfolio Holder for Partnerships (including the library service)
I understand that you will be recommending that the Cabinet retain one out of four of Cornwall's mobile library vans and that the number of stops being served will reduce from 665 to 172 (950 out of 2500 users will lose the stop in their village). I am sure that this will be extremely good news for those whose stops are saved, even if the service is to reduce from fortnightly to monthly or monthly to every second month.
This is all the more welcome against the backdrop of the Council's advertised requirement to save a further 30 or, indeed, 40 per cent from its total Library budget. How that saving is to be achieved has not yet been identified but I imagine you must have a viable plan.
You identify the cost of the driver and the van (excluding fuel, books and general overheads) as approximately £50,000, which includes about £25,000 for the van. As many authorities are having to reduce or end their service and many of these vans are nearly 9? years old I am sure that it is a good plan to try to get a better deal on the van!
I think it would be worthwhile giving consideration to a volunteer driver too. This would make the service more affordable and it is hard to see that you will be able to save money on the remainder of the library service without the use of volunteers. It would also, perhaps, avoid an invidious process of deciding which drivers are to be retained for your new reduced service. Personally, I would find work as a volunteer driver rather more rewarding than endless meetings on how as a Council we are going to be ambitious, self confident etc etc
However, most importantly, I am concerned that if you do adopt this option you give members your assurance that cover will be provided for holidays and sickness. In particular, letting customers know by text message or e mail of days when the van will not show up seems to me to be wholly inadequate. This is particularly the case where the vast majority of users are over sixty and many a great deal older than that. Otherwise the service may die by another 172 cuts as customers lose confidence in waiting at the side of the road for a van which does not show up and the Council then take the opportunity to cut that stop because it is not used on average by at least 3 people (your new minimum usage criteria). That would look like an exercise in cynical tokenism.