Readers will have less choice of books because of £350,000 worth of cuts to Surrey’s libraries budget by 2019, an opposition party has claimed.

The cuts come as part of a new contract for an outside company to provide books, CDs and DVDs which was awarded last week.

The cuts will be imposed in stages as Surrey County Council’s library resources budget is slashed from £1,594,313 for 2016/17 by £246,000 in 2017/18 and by a further £100,000 the following year.

Surrey Comet:

Surrey County Council’s cabinet awarded a contract to Askews and Holts Library Services Ltd for the provision of supplying library resources on Tuesday, February 28. The contract will begin on April 1.

The contract will enable the library service to run efficiently, economically and effectively, the council’s Chief Finance Officer stated in a report placed before the cabinet last week.

But the opposition Liberal Democrat group fear for the future of the council’s 52 libraries – which have 319,000 current members – and demanded to know what services may also be cut.

Surrey Comet:

Councillor John Orrick (pictured above), Lib Dems spokesperson for libraries, said: "Our libraries and their resources are not safe under this Conservative County Council. Less library stock means less choice for our residents, so these cuts will have a direct impact on library users and could mean fewer people visiting and using our libraries.

"The Conservative administration has already admitted that our libraries have over 200,000 less stock items than three years ago and so it is clear that stock will continue to be cut under the Tories. Liberal Democrats had to force the County Council to reveal the cuts to the library resources budget which yet again proves the secretive nature of this Conservative-administration.

"Residents and councillors deserve to know the facts and to be kept informed of which services in Surrey the Tories are planning to cut and why.”

From December: Surrey County Council forced to dip into 'largest ever use of reserves' to address £15 million overspend

From January: Surrey County Council referendum on 15 per cent tax increase a 'smoke-screen' for cuts, Labour opposition claim

From February: Surrey County Council leader U-turns on plans for 15 per cent tax increase minutes before vote

The council has dipped into £24.8 million of reserves – its largest ever planned use of reserves – after blowing its budget by £15 million, and considered a council tax increase of 15 per cent to balance its budget.

Surrey Comet:

Richard Walsh (pictured above), cabinet member for localities and community wellbeing, said: “We’re determined to get the best possible value for money for Surrey taxpayers while ensuring our libraries have the latest books, CDs and DVDs to continue attracting visitors.

“This contract will also help our libraries manage their stock efficiently while ensuring there is a wide selection of books and other resources available for our residents.”

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