A BLIND grandfather must now pay for his audio books after the council cut its funding for the service.

Ron Tomlinson, 65, of St Barnabas Road, Woodford Green, has relied on the formerly free Talking Books service since becoming totally blind 30 years ago, but must now pay an annual fee of £82 to continue listening to his books.

The new charge will hit 74 blind people in the borough who use the service, saving the council £7,933 per year. It must save £12 million from its budget overall in 2011-12 due to Government cuts.

The Talking Book catalogue and an audio book player is provided and delivered by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) while Action on Hearing Loss, which provides the sensory services for Redbridge, liaises directly with people who use Talking Books and co-ordinates the RNIB's Talking Books service for the borough.

But the group was forced to charge for the service after the council stopped paying for people to use it due to budget cuts.

Mr Tomlinson, who has three grandchildren, said: “I won’t allow myself to be deprived of books but I will have to pay for that myself now and I don’t think that’s right.

“It’s ridiculous really. As a taxpayer I’m actually paying for other people to read but I’m denied the opportunity myself.”

The book lover said local library audio books are often abridged and do not compare to the RNIB’s huge selection.

A spokeswoman for RNIB said: "As sighted people continue to read any book at Redbridge libraries for free, blind and partially sighted people are having to pay to carry on reading by subscribing to Talking Books membership, or have far fewer audio books to read at their local library."

"What Redbridge and many other councils across the country are doing is discriminating against blind and partially sighted people."

A council spokeswoman said: “In the current financial climate, the council has had to make some difficult decisions on services. As Talking Books is not a statutory service, and technology has made access to audio books much easier since the introduction of the service some thirty years ago, the decision was made to no longer fund it. We understand that some service users will prefer to continue using talking books and we will be working with Action on Hearing Loss to see whether it is possible to maintain the service for existing users."

"Action on Hearing Loss can still provide information on cheap and comprehensive access to audio libraries. In addition the council’s public library also loan audio books. This service is free for residents with a registered disability."

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