Suffolk Library Consultation Project Manager Mike Ellwood admits lack of time and resources

Today the newly launched Wikisuffolk placed the full text of a document written by Mike Ellwood, Suffolk County Council's library consultation project manager in the public domain

The document is a report to the "MLA" (Government library quango) prepared Suffolk is part of the so-called Future Libraries Programme. The document appears to have been written just as the library consultation launched and is very revealing and perhaps shows why the library consultation has been such a failure.

Mike comments that:
We found that the time allocated to us to get the project up and running very tight. Ideally we would’ve liked a much longer time span to get the job planned out properly. It placed a lot of pressure on us to get things right first time. We also would’ve liked to have more time to get our own ideas down and talk to people. That would’ve provided us with firm evidence that what we propose is what the communities want.

 More people resource would also be helpful. We have a limited and reducing number of staff and this has taken up more staff time than we expected.

He then goes on to say:
The time pressure was very difficult and also because we were one of the first services in the County Council to be devolved, we've been racing ahead of other parts of the council and we need their input. There is also new legislation coming through from the Government.  There has been a lot of talk about staff being able to take over the running of the library services for example, but we haven’t got the information to tell them how to do it and that has been quite unsettling for the staff.

 There have been lots of questions around transfer of assets and procurement which we have had to try and answer as we went along. We have had to go to other parts of the Council for the answers and they have sometimes been lagging behind us or not come across the questions before. So it has been a steep learning curve. These have been the main barriers really.

 The decision was taken that we should be as open and transparent as possible and make available all the information we had to help potential providers come forward. The sheer volume of data that needed to be collated and presented in a useable form has been a considerable challenge.

I almost feel sorry for Mike after reading this but it explains why the consultation process has been such a mess. There have been problems with getting reliable data and a lack of staff resource in Suffolk County Council to do the job properly.

The ill-prepared, under-resourced consultation that has gone ahead despite any firm evidence of what communities want has gone about as well as could be expected.
Suffolk County Council 249159869790829081

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