Ten Reasons the Suffolk Library Consultation is Flawed

Suffolk County Council are "consulting" on their plans for libraries and have asked the people of Suffolk to "have their say". Consultations by governments local and national are often said to be somewhat dubious with the suspicion that the decision has already been made never far away.

I think the Suffolk Library Consultation is blatantly biased and flawed. Take a look here at the documents.

Here are the 10 reasons I think the "consultation" is flawed:

1. The consultation document is completely based on the assumption that library services must be cut by at least 30%. Cllr Judy Terry, Cabinet lead states in the forward:

Libraries will have much less funding in future. The council will be reducing the funding for libraries by greater than 30% in order to protect more essential front line services like fire services and services for vulnerable people like elderly care.

So rather than consulting Suffolk CC have made the decision already.

2. This isn't a consultation at all. It is more a gun to the head of local communities. Basically the message is come up with ideas to fund and run your local library yourself or it will close. The consultation document goes on:

If we do not receive your ideas for ways in which the county council can substantially reduce its funding, we propose to fund or part fund some of the county’s libraries, and stop funding the rest. This is why your ideas are so important.

3. The consultation is based on dividing libraries in Suffolk into "County" libraries and "community" libraries. This division is arbitrary and has been invented for the purposes of the consultation. The real distinction is the "Community" libraries will close unless someone else takes them on.

4. The consultation has a questionnaire that asks leading questions rather than allowing the person answering to state their own opinions, for example:

How will your idea or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%?

You may want to refer to the consultation document 'Have your say on the future of Suffolk’s libraries' for criteria and suggestions about different approaches to running libraries in Suffolk and elsewhere.

Also, please include in your answer:

• Whether you can personally contribute, or if your suggestion is made on behalf of a local organisation, company or individual(s)

• Who might provide the service and how?

These "questions" are leading and do not allow the response that Suffolk should continue to fully fund and run the library service which is at the very least a valid opinion.

5. People should not be expected to have ideas on who might provide library services in order to be entitled to an opinion in the consultation. Indeed many will quite understandably feel that this is the County Council's job.

6. Many library users do not use the Internet yet Suffolk County Council made very few paper copies of the survey available, have been reluctant to provide further paper copies even if they run out and appear to have inadequate resources to key in the paper consultation responses.

7. The consultation invites community groups to submit bids to run library services and provides financial data in order to allow a business case to be prepared yet issues a disclaimer with the data saying it should not be used for business planning purposes:

The information we are providing is as accurate as we can make it at the point of publication but given the volume and detail of this information we cannot guarantee that it is error free so it should not be used for business planning purposes If you require any clarifications on the information provided please contact us using the details below.

8. The consultation shows both county wide and individual library data on financial and visitor numbers yet these figures do not add up and there is a further disclaimer:

Visitor figures are derived in two ways, and there may be a discrepancy between the figures used in the countywide financial information sheet and the more detailed information on each library. The figures used in the countywide financial information sheet are taken from one source consistently for comparative purposes only.

9. The consultation process is being led by Cllr Judy Terry who is a partisan Conservative member of the Cabinet. It would be much more appropriate for the consultation to be led my officers who would report the findings to elected members to make decisions on.

10. Further lack of confidence in the impartiality of the consultation process was caused by the failure to name the project team analyzing the survey responses until an FOI was served despite several requests from library campaigners.
Suffolk County Council 5186531079566005089

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