Western Isles councillor’s ‘shock’ at handling of mobile library service

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The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillor whose motion to purchase new mobile library vans was defeated at recent council meetings, has expressed ‘shock’ over the way the future of the service has been handled in the Comhairle’s Community Conversation process.

In the statement on the future of library services in the booklet, the Comhairle states: ‘The proposal would seek to develop a Community Hub Model for the library service […] It would retain the four core static libraries but would also offer scope to develop libraries in closer partnership with individual communities using the ‘community hub concept’.

‘This would see small, district libraries being developed around existing school estate and potentially other community facilities.

‘This model would bring the library closer to the community across the islands and would potentially negate the requirement for a full-scale mobile library service.

‘A smaller scale, more discrete, mobile service would however, be required to service specific areas and undertake specific tasks.’

The Comhairle’s booklet outlined that the overall cost of the library service is £682k, with the cost of of the mobile service being £121k, concluding ‘Provision of £240k exists within the Capital programme for the replacement of two library vans.’

Commenting on the statement, Cllr Mitchel said: “I am shocked that in advance of Community Conversations such pre-judgements are being bandied about and written down.

“It makes no mention of the fact that capital monies have been ring-fenced for the continuation of this service, and been in place for several years.

“The statement also seems to pre-judge the situation and makes no mention of the fact that my amendment of October 2nd at full Council to reinstate this lifeline service with immediate effect and procurement was only defeated 18-12.

“It also fails miserably to address the issue as to how the Community Hub issue is going to work with a mobile library service which serves the most vulnerable sector of our society – a service incidentally which has been maintained and developed in many other rural Local Authorities viz Highland / Orkney / Shetland / Perth and Kinross etc who seem to recognise it as a lifeline service.”

At the meeting Comhairle leaders opposed Cllr Mitchel’s motion for the immediate purchase of the vans on the basis that all services should be considered in the Community Conversation process, and not be pre-empted, giving local communities the option to express an opinion on the future of services.

One local councillor, who had previously been a prominent campaigner for the purchase of the mobile library vans voted against the motion having received an assurance from the Leader of the Comhairle, Cllr Roddie MacKay, that all options for the future of the service would be fully costed and would be a part of the Service Redesign Process.

Cllr MacKay and the Comahirle were approached for a comment for this story, but none was received at the time of publication.