Go-ahead for consultation on Surrey library changes

Elderly resident using a mobile library - generic
Image caption The county council has proposed changes to 11 of its 52 public libraries across Surrey

A public consultation into plans to axe the mobile library service in Surrey and devolve the running of 11 libraries to the community is to go ahead.

Surrey County Council's (SCC) cabinet agreed the move after its safer and stronger communities committee voted to refer the plans back to councillors.

Opposition groups have described the proposals as "disastrous and flawed".

SCC deputy leader, Councillor David Hodge, said the plans reflected changes in the way people were using libraries.

"We need to refocus the libraries service to reflect this.

"It will mean we can focus on providing a first class service at our busier libraries and developing the increasingly popular virtual library [of electronic and audio books]."

'Support of residents'

Mr Hodge said the Conservative-run council wanted to provide a libraries service "that everyone wants to use", and which was cost-effective.

"We want to avoid any library closures but it will need the support of residents to succeed.

"Where local people are committed to keeping their library we will help them to do so," he said.

Four of the libraries affected are in divisions represented by the Residents' Association and Independent Group - Ewell Court, Molesey, Stoneleigh and Tattenhams.

The others are New Haw, Warlingham, Byfleet, Bramley, Lingfield, Bagshot and Virginia Water.

SCC said the 11 libraries accounted for just 8% of items borrowed from all libraries across the county, and just over 7% of all visits countywide in 2009-10.

It said there would be a one-month consultation with users of the mobile library service, and a six-month consultation over plans to devolve the running of the 11 public libraries.

The cabinet is due to further consider the proposals in September.

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