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Doubt over future of county libraries

Questions hang over the future of a number of West Sussex libraries amid county council plans to cut up to £500,000 from the service’s budget.


A report due to be discussed by the cabinet next week said ‘several’ tier 6 libraries could be closed to help save money.


There are 13 tier 6 libraries in the county, including Arundel, Petworth, Southbourne, and the Witterings.


The cuts are among a list of suggestions for the 2020/21 budget, which could save more than £22m – which opposition members said they would fight ‘tooth and nail’.


The list also includes plans to close two of the county’s 11 household waste recycling centres, reintroduce charges for DIY waste, and stopping the mobile waste service in Selsey and the Witterings.


These three changes would save £720,000.


The council recently came in for huge criticism after cutting £4m from its housing related support budget – with dire warnings as to the consequences for vulnerable and homeless people.


Now there are plans to cut as much as £1.3m from the remaining £2.3m in 2020/21.


This would be achieved by ‘reviewing preventative contracts and restricting the service to statutory responsibilities only’.


There could also be bad news for food banks, Citizens Advice centres and children and family centres with plans to completely cut the Local Assistance Network (LAN) budget.


The budget was cut from £800,000 to £200,000 this financial year and losing it completely will see food banks lose £35,000, children and family centres lose £80,000 and Citizens Advice lose £35,000.


The final £50,000 will be lost from social enterprises – businesses with a community aim.


Also on the list are plans to reduce subsidised bus services by up to £200,000, to reduce the number of hours during which disabled people can use their concessionary bus passes, and to stop providing passes for carers/companions.


This would also save up to £200,000.


Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “We are in the very early stages of planning next year’s budget in very uncertain financial times, so we need to consider as many options as possible.


“Like many other local authorities across the country, we’re continuing to face unprecedented financial pressures mainly due to the increasing demand on social care services, a reduction in government funding and uncertainty around future funding.


“We have made over £239 million of savings since 2010, with our funding cut £155 million by government, but we still have to save £75.5m million over the next four years.


“Regrettably, we need to consider significant savings.”


Report by Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter

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