Stradbroke Library Public Meeting: Suffolk CC Forced to Apologise to Parish Council

Stradbroke Community Centre Packed for Library Public
Meeting 21st February 2011
Yesterday evening the small Suffolk village of Stradbroke held a public meeting in the Community Centre to discuss the future of the library that is threatened with closure and the Courthouse building that houses the library.

More than 150 residents gathered for the meeting arranged by Stradbroke Parish Council. Guy McGregor, Parish Councillor for Stradbroke (who is a member of Cabinet and voted for the cuts) and Roger McMaster Head of Suffolk Libraries attended the meeting and were sat on the front row. The meeting started with a screening of our film "What Users Think" where we asked library users to tell us why they attended the Day of Action on 5 February:

During the film Cllr McGregor looked awkward, seemed to be reading papers and even had his eyes closed at times. Roger McMaster watched attentively and later said he found the film "moving".

Parish Council Chair Ann Kerr gave a convincing speech showing her commitment to libraries and commenting that we did not need lectures on the "Big Society" from County or Government as "we have been doing it for hundreds of years".

A petition of around 750 signatures was presented to Guy McGregor which is am amazing number for a village of some 1250 people....

Both came in for criticism from the audience and Roger McMaster was forced to apologise for misleading the parish council during meetings at the end of last year when they suggested the library could be kept running in return for an investment of £900 a year by the Parish Council. With the publication of the consultation this plan went off the table and it wasn't clear at the end of the meeting just what the position was and how much money the village would need to find to keep the library open.

Guy McGregor was shouted down from the floor when he started to make party political points about the budget deficit and struggled to answer questions without the political crutch to rely on.

Many were willing to do anything to keep the library open even pay for borrowing books (Roger McMaster pointed out the Council could not charge by law) but others pointed our we had already paid for this from our Council Tax.

Suffolk's responses were frequently unconvincing and many questions from the floor could not be answered or were poorly answered. At one stage after Roger McMaster was claiming Stradbroke library was expensive with a high cost per issue I had to lend him copies of his own figures and point out Ipswich Central Library cost more per issue than Stradbroke!

Radio Stradbroke made an audio recording of the meeting and have published a podcast. press play below. If you prefer you can download the podcast as an MP3 file (right click on the download link). File size is 72Mb

So the fight continues but Stradbroke made a strong show that it wants to keep its library and that it expects the County Council to listen.
Suffolk County Council 105365112726886425

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