Libraries and free transport for OAPs to be axed to save cash

Reporter:

Lois Hough

LIBRARIES could shut, parking charges may rocket and free transport for pensioners might be scrapped as part of a massive programme of cuts by
Flintshire Council, the Leader can exclusively reveal.


The closure of five libraries in Queensferry, Garden City, Bagillt, Halkyn and Gwernaffield, which council chiefs say are the least popular, will save £283,000 over the next three years.

Free transport for pensioners and people with learning disabilities who attend a day centre could be withdrawn to save £2.6 million in the next three years.

Car parking charges may rise from 20p to 50p a day in Mold and Holywell saving £938,000 in the next three years, and charges of 20p an hour will be rolled out across all other car parks in Flintshire.

Also in the pipeline are plans to hand over control of public toilets to community councils which will save £457,000 in the next three years.

An early draft of the three-year Flintshire Futures plan was leaked to the Leader in October and revealed that nearly £10 million of savings were required from next year’s budget with further cuts expected over the following two years.

A detailed breakdown of the cuts has now been obtained by the Leader.

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, executive member for education, said he regretted the possible closure of the libraries but said the service would continue in other ways.

He said: “What we’re trying to do is to deliver the service in alternative ways.

“We have the mobile library service and the routes for that can be altered to cater for library users.

“We are also looking at putting a selection of books in pubs and shops.

“Although we regret having to consider shutting these libraries we are trying to ensure that the service continues and is improved.

“It’s early days and nothing is set in stone.”

Cllr Bernie Attridge, deputy leader of the Labour group, is concerned about axing free transport for pensioners.

As a former taxi driver he said he knows first-hand the importance of transport to vulnerable people.

He said: “It is very concerning because it is going to hit the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Cllr Attridge says the best way to cut costs is to remove management posts and not frontline services.

Cllr Carol Ellis, executive member for environment, said it was a difficult decision but the cuts have to come from somewhere.

She said: “We have to make difficult decisions and I never thought it would come to this. It’s an emotive issue and we want to protect our frontline services.”

Cllr Tony Sharps, deputy council leader and executive member for environment, said: “Car parking charges will be looked at in all towns across the county and we may also introduce car parking charges at County Hall.”

Up to 100 jobs are at risk in 2011/12 according to the plan where more than 100 measures are outlined.

Council chiefs say the plans are a work in progress and have not yet been formally approved.

See full story in the Leader

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