DESPITE a lack of public consultation, West Dunbartonshire’s One Stop Shop service and library branches will merge in a bid to save £150,000.

The local authority plans to make the saving by 2021/22 through increasing access to these services, which offer advice and information on a range of issues – but by getting rid of six jobs in the process.

The One Stop Shop – which enables residents to access services such as council tax and housing benefit advice and making payments – will be available in eight public libraries and the council’s Church Street office in Dumbarton.

It means that Clydebank’s One Stop Shop will relocate for the third time in five years, moving now from the Co-op building to Clydebank Library.

After a “successful” pilot at Alexandria Library the aim is to increase face to face support from 105 hours to 287 hours per week at Balloch, Dumbarton, Dalmuir, Parkhall, Duntocher, Faifely and Clydebank libraries.

The issue was discussed at the corporate services committee last Wednesday, where concern was raised about the lack of public consultation.

READ MORE: Council dismisses fears over One Stop Shop's future

Councillor John Mooney said: “Various consultations have been mentioned in this report, but I just wanted to know what consultation had been carried out with our own citizens.”

A council officer replied: “We haven’t consulted with our citizens on this. We did the library consultation in 2017 where residents talked about how they wanted to keep their branches open and see more money spent on their libraries.

“We’ve done this in Alexandria and the feedback I’ve had is positive so I would like to pursue that further.”

It is hoped the move will allow residents better assistance in person during the evenings on Saturday mornings.

Those living in Balloch, Faifley, Duntocher, and Park Hall will be able to access citizens’ services much closer to home without having to travel to town centres.

The officer continued: “We’ve tested the idea in Alexandria for more than a year where footfall has increased by more than five per cent at a time where nationally library visitor numbers are going down.

“Staff are hugely positive about the change and the anecdotal feedback from residents is that they are enjoying the service being based in the library environment.

“The same number of staff would work in each branch. Opening hours would stay the same and the service delivery would be unaffected.”

Concern was also raised that the move could “strangle libraries” by increasing services offered. It was also pointed out that the One Stop Shop has moved before and this would not benefit libraries if the service was moved again.

Councillor Caroline McAllister said: “Libraries aren’t used as they once were – there is certainly a massive difference in how people utilise libraries from when I was a child.

“We need the libraries to be sustainable so that those who don’t have devices can use them to reduce social isolation.

“There is evidence that moving other services into libraries does work and does make them sustainable and the Vale library is a classic example.”

“Many constituents who objected to the One Stop Shop initially but have now said they are a great idea.”

Labour councillors wanted a final decision to take place at full council, but the majority of members voted to approve the move at committee.