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Derbyshire County Council unveils proposed changes to libraries

Derbyshire County Council currently runs 45 libraries.
Derbyshire County Council currently runs 45 libraries.

Twenty Derbyshire libraries could be taken over and managed by local people, it has emerged.

Next Thursday, Derbyshire County Council cabinet members are expected to approve a three-month public consultation on the authority's 'Libraries for Derbyshire' plan.

It is proposed that 25 libraries would remain under council control and 20 libraries would be taken over and managed by local community groups, interested parties or agencies.

Community-managed libraries would receive grant funding from the council for up to four years and people staffing them would receive full training and on-going professional support.

The Conservative-led council needs to make £12million in savings in 2018-19.

Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of the council and cabinet member for strategic leadership, culture and tourism, said: "Like every council, we're facing significant pressures on our budget and must look to do things differently, which is why we're working to be an enterprising council, making bold decisions and big changes.

"We acknowledge the value and importance of our library service but this does not make it immune from the challenges we're facing.

"We don't intend closing any libraries and are confident our new draft plan reflects our commitment to the service and will secure its future.

"We need to know what Derbyshire residents think of this draft plan and will be encouraging them to help shape the future of the service if the consultation is agreed."

He added: "In Derbyshire, unlike some other authorities, no static libraries have closed in recent years and a reflection of our commitment to the service is that new replacement libraries have been built in South Normanton, Heanor and Ashbourne, another is due to open shortly in Glossop and a new replacement library is planned for Belper."

Coun Anne Western, leader of the Labour group on the council, described it as a 'devastating' reduction in the service.

She said: "In 2013 the Tories said that if Labour ran the council all the libraries were at risk.

"In four years we didn't close a single one - not one.

"Coun Lewis is trying to take credit for that and for the new ones we built and approved.

"Trying to brand this as bold and innovative won't wash.

"It's time for Coun Lewis to show courage and leadership and tell his Government that austerity isn't working and that we want a professionally run library service."

The council currently operates 45 libraries across the county and two mobile library vehicles.

Last year cabinet members agreed it must save £1.6m from the libraries budget by 2021.

A council spokesman said: "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 the necessary savings by 2021.

"These would include reducing opening hours at libraries remaining under council management and changing the way the mobile library service is run, with a view to this service also being transferred to community management.

"If agreed by the council's cabinet next week, a 12-week consultation will be launched in May calling on Derbyshire residents to have their say on the draft plan and the council's preferred option.

"People will also be encouraged to put forward their own suggestions on how the service could be run in the future.

"Focus groups would also be set up for interested individuals and groups to have their say during the consultation period and there would also be a series of drop-in sessions across the county."

The council said the library service faces challenges, including falling numbers of people visiting and borrowing books.