Several West Sussex libraries could close as part of further budget cuts

West Sussex County Council is considering closing several libraries
West Sussex County Council is considering closing several 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, at Angmering, Arundel, Broadwater, East Preston, Ferring, Findon Valley, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint, Petworth, Pulborough, Southbourne, Southwater and Witterings.

According to an officers’ report: “Reducing the level of service as suggested would have an impact on the ability of the service to support the County Council outcomes effectively and would represent a reduction in service. This would require extensive community and staff consultation.

“The impact would likely be greatest in the most isolated and rural communities.

To mitigate that risk, the business case will engage with the communities to identify alternative community options.”

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.

“Our draft savings options will be presented next week and as a cabinet we will then decide which of those options to take forward and investigate further as part of our budget setting process.”

The meeting will be held at County Hall, Chichester, on Thursday July 11 from 10.30am. It will also be webcast live at: www.westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home.