Saturday, December 2, 2023

Derbyshire County Council “Not All About Cuts”

The leader of Derbyshire County Council has dismissed claims that the authority is out to make a habit of funding cuts after waving through plans which could see 20 libraries handed over to volunteers and 13 bus routes reduced.

Speaking after a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet, Conservative councillor Barry Lewis said that the measures, which were approved at a meeting on April 5, will make services “fit for purpose” while battling crumbling funding from central government.

Earlier this year, the council approved £12 million in cuts for 2018, in order to meet a target of £53 million by 2021. The proposal to hand 20 of the county’s least-used libraries over to volunteers and review opening hours and staffing is aimed at saving £1.6 million for the authority.

Meanwhile, a reduction in county council-subsidised bus routes is set to save another £1 million, largely through axing services in the early morning, evening, bank holiday Mondays and Sundays. The authority is pulling support for 26 services and it is thought 13 of these contracts will not be propped up by private companies and will be lost for good.

Mr Lewis, who represents Wingerworth and Shirland, said: “We do have a reduced funding situation coming from central government, there’s no doubt about that.

“But we do have a situation, particularly with libraries, where we have reduced numbers of people using them, technology such as ebooks and Kindles, and the way you get information means that more people just aren’t using libraries as much or in the same ways they used to.

“What I don’t want to be doing is looking at this in five year’s time, in a more dire situation, and having to close libraries, what I want to do now is make sure we are fit for purpose in the future.

“It’s not always about cuts for cuts’ sake, that’s not what it’s about at all, this is about how we can improve life for residents with the resources we have.”

As part of the preferred council proposal, the 20 least-used out of the council’s 45 libraries would be handed over to volunteers. The county’s two remaining mobile library vans would also be passed over to community groups, saving £200,000.

Locally, this would see the Duffield library handed over to the community to be run.

Among the bus routes being cut back are Chesterfield to Alfreton, via Wingerworth, which will have its evening service dropped; the Transpeak from Manchester to Derby, via Buxton, Bakewell and Matlock, which will lose the final scheduled daily journey in each direction; and the 442 from Ashbourne to the Fairfield Estate, via Hartington and Buxton – which will lose its Sunday and bank holiday Monday service.

Heading up the Labour group on the county council is Councillor Anne Western, who represents Barlborough and Clowne, and said that the proposed “crazy” library scheme is “really troubling”.

Mrs Western said: “All we have seen so far from this enterprising council model is to try and push things out to the community to run themselves.

“The Government are squeezing local authority budgets so hard that people even have to consider these sorts of crazy ideas. Do they think people are just sitting around at home with nothing better to do? Do they know people are out working hard, supporting their families and looking after their grandchildren?

“There’s a massive disconnect between the words and the jargon and the thoughts that are going on at County Hall, and the reality out in our communities I’m afraid, and it’s really troubling.”

A consultation on the library proposals will start on Monday, May 7.

There are three other ideas put forward and dismissed by council officers. These are to retain all libraries, close some libraries, or outsource the libraries to another organisation or local authority.

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter

3 thoughts on “Derbyshire County Council “Not All About Cuts”

  • Matt Jarvis

    The real issue is that the Government are reducing local Councils to tatters. A lack of central support is simply not good enough and shows anything outside of London no longer matters. This attitude has to change.

  • maurice neville

    This article only tells half the story -the extent of the planned cuts to libraries need to be known more widely. There there will cuts to opening hours of 32 libraries, including Duffield and Belper – the worst cut, to Staveley, by 16 hours a week. There will be across the board cuts in resources for books and other resources. There will be cuts to library budgets for the 20 so called ‘Community Libraries’, including Duffield, of 60% over the next next three years. All councils are looking at cuts to services because the Government is constantly reducing their budgets. Cllr Lewis is not doing this to make libaries ‘fit for purpose’ but to ‘fit’ libaries to his shrinking budget at Theresa May’s bidding. He knows that he cannot run decent public services when the cuts are so brutal – which is why he wrote this in a long and desperate letter to Sajid Javid, the minister for local government in October, begging for extra resources for children’s services ”Local authorities have recently warned that services for children’s social care are reaching breaking point …. The national picture is being reflected in Derbyshire with substantial strain placed on the children’s social care budget. The Children’s Services budget overspent by £5.5m in 2016-17 and is currently forecast to overspend by a similar figure in 2017-18. ” Javid just got a civil servant to fob him off.

  • Joanna Kirk

    Libraries are the universities of the poor. They provide the public with not just reference books but also skills manuals, maps, poetry, literature, aids for literacy, children’s books etc. They also provide a service for the visually impaired with large print books and audio tapes and a service for the elderly and housebound and work with the School Service. During school holidays they provide reading challenges for children. They are venues for literary events and art exhibitions. They provide internet access for those who do not have it. They keep historical information (eg Belper’s Local Studies library). People can borrow music CDs and videos for a small charge. Librarians facilitate the public in their search for information, they help people trace their ancestry and provide help to people using computers.
    When I was a child there were very few books in our house. It was a delight for me to discover all the books at the library and, having read most of the books available in my classroom at school, library books became a much appreciated and needed new source of books to read.
    Many members of the public use libraries for the quiet study space they provide. I have seen people in my local library writing letters, reading the newspapers, painstakingly typing up lists of former millworkers names in order to make them accessible online, looking at microfiches of old newspapers, children doing homework, mothers and babies listening to pre-school songs in the children’s library, people looking at planning applications which are kept in libraries for public consultation (as are other documents such as the Local Plan for the Borough), people getting tourist information and bus and train timetables, to name some of the ways in which people use libraries.
    Libraries are community hubs for information and events. So many libraries across the country have closed and it is to Derbyshire County Council’s credit that no libraries in the County have been closed thus far.
    Why aren’t libraries a priority?

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