Derbyshire County Council is encouraging residents to have their say on controversial new plans on the future of the library services in the area.
The 12-week consultation is live and people can give their views via the online questionnaire.
The DCC unveiled their proposed Derbyshire Public Library Service Strategy ‘Libraries for Derbyshire’ last month, setting out cost cutting measures to the library service and outlining proposals for its future.
During the consultation, which runs until Monday 30 July 2018, residents will also get the chance to attend drop in sessions being held at all county libraries and sign up to take part in focus groups for more in-depth discussions about community-managed libraries.
You can find details of drop in sessions and how to register for a focus group, along with more detailed information about the proposals being put forward.
Derbyshire County Council, led by the Conservatives, is proposing to hand 20 of its least-used libraries over to volunteers to save £1.6 million.
This sum would be achieved by also changing opening hours at the remaining 25 libraries, reviewing library staff and reducing funding for materials such as books and DVDs.
Labour leader Cllr Anne Western claims that the council’s leader, Cllr Barry Lewis, has “fundamentally undermined” the proposed plans and the public consultation. She feels that this has been achieved by referring to “mutuals” in his explanation of the plans and consultation, outlined in a letter to town and parish councils. Converting the running of a library into a mutual would involve turning it into a private company, owned and run by its investors. However, these are not stated as a fallback plan in the final consultation document.
The changes to the service and consultation have been met with fierce opposition by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Cllr Anne Western, Cllr Beth Atkins, Cllr Dave Allen and Cllr Sue Burfoot recently issued a joint statement, signed by the four councillors, reading:
“Our concern is that there are several instances of information that Councillor Barry Lewis has put into the public domain that do not reflect the cabinet decision, and do not correspond with the preferred option that cabinet agreed to be put out to public consultation.
Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism Councillor Barry Lewis said:
“Our priority is to keep libraries open and to achieve this it’s essential that communities and interested groups work with us and everyone has their say.
“We acknowledge the importance and value of our library service but we have to consider making changes as it isn’t sustainable to continue running and funding the service the way we do at the moment. Doing nothing is not feasible.
“We are confident that the proposals we’re putting forward will secure the future of all 45 county libraries and our mobile library service and we want as many people to have their say as possible during the consultation. We’re also open to alternative suggestions on how to run the service but make the necessary savings, or any other ideas about the service people may want to share with us.”
During the consultation, people are being asked to comment on the preferred option which would see 25 libraries remaining under DCC control and 20 libraries being taken over and managed by local community groups, interested parties or agencies.
The library service is proposing using a tiered approach to providing its services and allocating resources in the future.
As part of the tiering system, all 45 libraries have been ranked in terms of their performance, for example, number of books issued, visits, use of computers as well as considering evidence of need in the local area.
Four tiers have been created, and it is proposed subject to the consultation that in future, resources and services will be allocated to individual libraries, according to which tier they are in. It is proposed that libraries falling into tier four would be transferred to community management.
Community-managed libraries would receive grant funding from us for up to 4 years and people running them would receive full training and on-going professional support.
As well as setting out the preferred option for libraries, the library service strategy report states that further changes would still be needed to achieve an identified total of £1.6m savings by 2021.
Proposed changes would include reducing opening hours at council-run libraries at quieter times and changing the way the mobile library service is run, with a view to this service being transferred to community management.
The report also highlights that the DCC are also looking at increasing their use of new technology, encouraging greater use of self-service facilities and could consider implementing `Smart libraries’, which people can access using a card and PIN. These services could mitigate the proposed reduction in opening hours.