SLASHING library services in Southend is nothing to do with saving money, according to Southend Council.

This week the council revealed it is scrapping its ageing mobile library vehicle in favour of using council Transit vans to drop off and pick up books at care homes.

As part of the changes, 30 residential complexes will lose the service completely so the council can “concentrate” on homes where individuals are less able to get out and about.

The council will also be shutting the Forum library at 7pm each night, instead of 10pm.

Cabinet member Lesley Salter said: “After reviewing recent research and with data showing very few people use the facility during evening hours, we have consulted staff about the possibility of amending The Forum’s opening hours.

“Visitor numbers show that evening attendance is very low. This proposal would allow us to offer an improved service for new and existing customers by increasing staffing numbers during the busy peak times.

“Operating a revised route for the mobile library service will make it available to people who are less independent and would otherwise face difficulty accessing library services. This will also enable us to reach more care and nursing homes than we do now.”

The new route is currently expected to reach four more care and nursing homes - albeit from vans rather than a dedicated mobile library - but 30 less residential homes. Concerns have been raised because there was no consultation.

Councillor Salter said: “As this is an operational change, formal consultation was not undertaken, but an ongoing engagement with those affected by the new route is underway.”

Lin Boulter, chief executive of Southend Age Concern, said: “I applaud the idea of targeting more care homes. However there are a large number of older people who live independently and who have difficulty accessing library services.

“If using Transit vans mean that the books onboard have to be pre-ordered, or requested, this may also prove difficult for most if that’s going to have to be carried out online. I think suspending 30 locations will lead to a lot of unhappiness for older residents who are lonely and socially isolated.”