High Peak mobile libraries could face the axe

NDET 2-12-13 RKH 13 Derbyshire county council Library Bus.
NDET 2-12-13 RKH 13 Derbyshire county council Library Bus.

A High Peak author has hit out at proposed cuts to mobile libraries, describing them as an “intellectual life-line” for rural communities.

Berlie Doherty, of Edale, said she was “appalled” at the prospect of axing the service in light of Derbyshire County Council’s decision to launch a consultation into reducing the provision.

She said: “To remove the mobile library service is to cut off an intellectual life-line, particularly for disabled people and the elderly. It’s so difficult for people to get a to a library on public transport in rural areas. It’s appalling. My nearest library, Chapel-en-le-Frith, is more than seven miles away, but it’s a lot further away for others. Fortunately I drive, because the buses are hopeless.”

The double Carnegie-Medal winner added: “Derbyshire was so proud of the fact it kept all its libraries open in the last round of budget cuts. It was brilliant that they were able to do this. But it does feel like this is the beginning of a very slippery slope. The mobile library is the face of the council. It shows that its alive and well. I love seeing it trundling along.”

The service, which costs the council £720,000 to run, loaned 719,000 last year. It employs 26 people and consists of two large maximum capacity vehicles, MCVs, and eight smaller standard mobile libraries. The High Peak is served by one mobile library which operates on ten routes on a fortnightly basis.

At a meeting in Matlock on Tuesday, the Cabinet resolved to present the public with four options namely, ceasing to provide a mobile library service, withdrawing eight vehicles and retaining two MCVs, withdrawing eight vehicles but retaining one MCV, or working with community groups to develop drop-off points.

Cllr Dave Allen, cabinet member for health and communities, said: “We are facing extraordinary and unprecedented budget pressures with cuts of £157 million over the next five years so it is inevitable that many of our services, including libraries, with be subject to review. Sadly we have no alternative but to review services – these are savings the council has to make and if we don’t face these challenges now we will be storing up significant problems for the future.”

Public consultation will start in January and run in two stages until June.

It is expected final proposals would be presented to Cabinet for consideration in September 2014.

Berlie’s latest novel, The Company of Ghosts, published last month, is available as a paperback or ebook.