WHEN elected members of Scottish Borders Council agreed last year to transfer the running of libraries, museums and community centres to an integrated sport and culture trust – Live Borders – they were told the move would “protect and enhance services”.

But this week former council leader Drew Tulley has reacted angrily to the news that from April 1, national daily newspapers will no longer be supplied in the region’s 12 public libraries.

And the 79-year-old is urging the current crop of councillors to apply pressure on the trust to have the decision overturned.

“I can’t imagine this will save Live Borders a huge amount of money, but I do know it will seriously impact on the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Mr Tulley told the Border Telegraph.

“I am referring to the many older people and those on low income who are not on the internet but who like to visit their local reading rooms to keep up with the daily news.

“Apart from anything else, the social interaction during such visits is very important to them.

“These are public libraries so I hope that wiser counsel will prevail and this mean-spirited decision will be reversed.”

At the time of going to press yesterday, the Border Telegraph had been unable to elicit a comment from Live Borders which has a workforce of around 400 and receives £6.6m a year from the council – around 60 per cent of its annual budget.

However, the need for the organisation to save money was highlighted in a recent letter to staff from chief executive Euan Jackson.

“There is a need to achieve significant savings,” wrote Mr Jackson. “We will need to reshape and refocus…our valued services.”

Since then, the council has agreed to cut its annual contribution to Live Borders by £326,000 in the next financial year and 18 members of staff have successfully applied for “early release from employment” and will leave the organisation on April 1.

While, under the terms of the transfer agreement, that staff cut will require ratification by the council next month, elected members at Newtown have no influence over Live Borders’ operational decisions.

Mr Tulley told us: “While I appreciate this position, I would urge councillors to consider this in the context of other far most wasteful spending decisions, and ask the trust to reconsider.”

A council source commented: “As citizens, councillors are entitled to their views, but the council cannot set up an arms-length trust and then decide how it should be run day to day.”

The newspaper ban in libraries does not extend to local titles which will continue to be supplied.