Councillor Amo Raju, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism
The Labour-led administration of Derby City Council is taking a significant step forward in delivering our pledge that no library in the city will close, by reaching an in-principle agreement with a local charity to run all ten proposed Community Managed Libraries across Derby.
I’m extremely pleased to announce that Direct Help and Advice (DHA) have submitted a successful application, following an expression of interest period and a robust evaluation process, which examined the best way to deliver a successful and financially sustainable library service for Derby.
When proposed changes to our libraries were first announced in July 2017, the Labour administration was clear that no library would close. Nevertheless, we’ve always been conscious that any changes to such well-loved local services would be met with a degree of concern.
I believe today’s announcement not only provides a sustainable future for these valuable community facilities, but ensures that the services they offer to local residents will be broadened.
Under these plans, DHA will be working closely with the communities they serve to strive to meet the expectations of residents and design the services on offer around their needs.
This will mean more local services provided in one place by voluntary sector partners, above and beyond what you might expect from the traditional library model. DHA will be working in partnership with Community Action Derby and Citizens Advice to provide services and recruit library volunteers.
For example, community managed libraries will offer free specialist legal advice on housing, as well as additional support for residents regarding access to benefits, managing debt and other consumer advice.
DHA will also be working with a number of other partners on this project, including Derbyshire Community Bank, Women’s Work, Derby University and the Padley Centre.
Alongside working with other voluntary sector organisations, DHA will continue to have access to the council’s extensive range of books and existing computer system, ensuring regular customers will still be able to access the core services they currently receive.
Crucially, DHA have also confirmed that they’ll either meet or exceed the current operating hours of council-run libraries, depending on the level of volunteer support they are able to secure.
Moreover, volunteers will have access to training and support from library service experts from Derby City Council, while the authority’s professional librarians will continue to buy and manage books on behalf of the Community Managed Libraries.
I believe that the model that DHA are proposing offers the best of both worlds: the Council’s expertise and resources in operating libraries, alongside the third sector’s proven track record of delivering volunteer-led services.
These proposals fully meet the criteria set-out by Cabinet when Community Managed Libraries were first proposed. They’re also likely to result in fewer job losses than originally anticipated, while still achieving the savings required in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan.
Furthermore, the Big Lottery have examined our proposals and confirmed in principle that they have no plans to claw back funding if any libraries they have helped to fund are transferred to community management.
We plan to finalise the agreement with DHA before the end of March and anticipate that all proposed Community Managed Libraries will be transferred in a phased process by Christmas.
At no point throughout the process of reviewing our library service have we taken these changes lightly; nor have we ever questioned the excellent service currently provided by our hard-working employees at the council’s existing libraries.
However, Derby City Council continues to face a difficult financial situation as a result of the Government’s continued and concerted austerity programme. No stone is being left unturned as we explore every option available to meet these challenges.
If we’re to become a modern, flexible and resilient council, we must consider new models of delivery in order to safeguard the future of public services in Derby.
Through this announcement, we’re delivering on our commitment to a sustainable library service for the city and meeting our Pledge that no library in Derby will close.