CONCERNS have been voiced over the way a proposal to merge Malvern Library and the town’s job centre has been handled and the impact it might have on both services.
Worcestershire County Cou ncil is currently consulting on the idea, which it says would help towards achieving the £1.8 million – 28 per cent – cuts it needs to find in its library and learning service budget.
But regular library user Karen Webb, who lives in Cowleigh Bank, Malvern, was incensed to receive an e-mail from the county council advertising the proposal the day after the last of three “engagement” sessions was held at the library and just 10 days before the consultation’s closing date of Monday, November 12.
Mrs Webb, who received the e-mail just as she was going away for almost a week, believes the council has been “disingenuous”, saying the note was a case of “let’s not let them know until it’s almost certain we’ll get what we want”.
She is now calling for another week of public engagement to take place and said she had serious concerns over what was being proposed.
“The job centre the way it is at the moment is actually quite a nice, welcoming place, which I think is important for the local jobless community,” she said. “Also, the library at the moment provides excellent facilities and I am worried at how much the offerings that both services provide will be reduced and how much the community will suffer.”
The proposed merger would see Job Centre Plus move out of its current premises in Portland Road and into the library building in Graham Road. A planning application is expected to be submitted in December and users are being assured that numbers of books, computers and study spaces will not be reduced.
Responding to Mrs Webb’s concerns, a spokesman for Worcestershire County Coun-cil said people had been given more than two weeks to share their views.
“In addition, we advertised the engagement week in the Malvern Gazette more than a week before it started and had posters up in the library, again well in advance,” he said. “Overall the response to the proposal has been overwhelmingly positive. “The vast majority of people we spoke to and who have completed comment cards have been supportive and recognise it’s an ideal way to save the service money while maintaining a comprehensive library offer in Malvern.”