PLANS to stop funding talking books for the blind in Thurrock have been branded “deplorable”.

The Thurrock Unsighted People’s Society said Thurrock Council will be depriving visually impaired residents of their only source of enjoyment if it stops paying the Royal National Institute for Blind People for its range of alternatives to print media, including large-print, braille, and audio material.

TUP spokesman Peter Pascoe said: “Thousands of visually impaired people all over the country regard this service highly as a window into the world of the printed world.

“Thurrock Council has, for many years, borne the cost of this excellent service to all duly registered blind or partially-sighted members of the public.

“Now, because of the Government 'cuts' the Library Service has proposed to terminate this concession, threatening to deprive the visually impaired of not only their main source of enjoyment, but of learning and culture.”

He added: “Whilst we understand and appreciate the strictures imposed upon the council by central government and the necessity for economies, we deplore the fact that all too often, the first target for cuts appears to be the essential services to the disabled, the defenceless and the vulnerable.”

The Royal National Institute for Blind People has some 15,000 book titles on offer in each media, covering fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literature, music and educational subjects.

The audio versions are on a special CD which are delivered and can be returned, by post, free of charge.

It works by the customer supplying a list of titles they want, or asking RNIB staff to choose from the works of certain authors.

A council spokesman said: “The council has not yet taken any firm decisions about the future of the library service and will not do so until the cabinet meeting in February.

“The future of this specific (RNIB) service will be decided at that point once all alternatives have been identified and the impact of particular decisions considered.

“All options for libraries are currently being explored by a small group of members and officers charged with identifying a way of delivering the necessary level of savings while maintaining a high-quality service in the future.

“The findings of this group will inform the options laid before cabinet in February, at which point the true impact upon current service arrangements will be known.”