Cash-strapped Highland Council has found the funds to replace one vehicle in its ageing mobile library fleet over the next financial year.
One councillor has called this a “Band-Aid” solution to a long-neglected situation that has become critical.
The council has a fleet of nine vehicles, of which eight are in service and one in reserve. The yellow vans cost £120,000 and some of the vehicles are 13 years old with more than 260,000 miles on the clock.
The council’s care and learning committee will be asked to approve a proposal next week to spend £140,000 from a community budget to buy one new vehicle and investigate the possibility of finding a further, second-hand one.
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans has been a strong advocate of the library van service, raising the ageing fleet situation at previous council meetings.
He welcomed the new funds but said: “My understanding is that there are at least two vehicles in terminal decline. This is something which the council has neglected and this Band-Aid doesn’t resolve the problem going forward.
“This is firefighting, a panic measure. The fleet is old and tired and no provision has been made by this administration to replace the fleet on a regular basis. The problem is now critical and we’ve had to allocate £140,000 out of the community budget for it.
“There should be provision made to replace the fleet on a rota basis going forward, with money from the capital budget”.
Council officers say the cost of new vehicles is not affordable within the capital programme as it would “significantly limit scope for any investment in property assets”.
Decisions about the affordable and appropriate replacement of one vehicle per year would be taken at a later date, the officers said.
The entire community and leisure facilities budget for the next five years is £1.9 million.
Mr Gowans said: “For some people, the library van is the only human contact they’ll see in two weeks.
“They don’t just bring books, they bring information. The staff are highly trained, to help people with things like form-filling. They’re a lifeline”.