Plug pulled on Redbridge mobile library service

Youngsters in the mobile library at Valentines park

Youngsters in the mobile library at Valentines park - Credit: Archant

A pensioners’ group has slammed the decision to end a mobile library service, calling it “the final nail in the coffin for isolation”.

Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure confirmed it was decommissioning the borough's mobile service as its 14-year-old bus was in need of replacement and it can't afford the £300,000 price tag.

Angela Banner of Redbridge Pensioners' Forum said the news is sad for older housebound people and risks creating greater isolation after the borough's meals on wheels service was axed in 2017.

"It's really terrible news," she said.

"If you can't get out the house, books are something you can really enjoy, they can give you an escape and make you feel less alone.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for isolation."

A former mobile library worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said not only did the service help make books accessible but it helped check on vulnerable members of the community.

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"Older people used to use it a lot and it was a nice way to check on them," they said.

"If someone hadn't turned up for a few days you would go and see if they were all right.

"It probably saved social services some money and it helped residents as well.

"They looked forward to you coming - sometimes it was the only interaction they would have all day."

Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure said the mobile library will be taken off the road on June 1.

It confirmed it is looking into alternative services for people who cannot get to a library and may create a book on wheels service.

"We are currently one of only two boroughs in the capital to run a mobile library service, but it has now become unreliable and the significant cost of a replacement means it's not viable to continue with the service," said Iain Varah, chief executive of Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure.

"In Redbridge, we are bucking the national trend by keeping all our static libraries open, maintaining opening hours and investing in facilities.

"In the last few months, we've undertaken a major upgrade to improve online and interactive services and run one of the most popular library services in London, with both issues and visits increasing.

"But in the current financial climate, we must be realistic and to continue running first-class static libraries for the overwhelming majority of our customers, we must make this change."

Mr Varah said every resident in the borough lives within a mile radius of one of the 12 Redbridge libraries.

"We appreciate there are some who can't make the trip to their local branch so we will be working very hard to increase our other services such as home delivery, which is tailored to the individual needs of each customer," he added.

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