Suffolk Library U-Turn: Devil in the detail?
|Library campaigners handing in petitions to Suffolk CC|
Wordblog quote Lib Dem County Council Group Leader Kathy Pollard as saying
The transfer of libraries to a Community Interest Company raises a further series of questions and surely means this is just “Divestment” under a different guise?
How much money will be given to this CIC to run the library service? Will the service still be expected to save more than 30% of its running costs? If so how will that work?I was interviewed for the EADT and today on p2 they print quotes from me saying something similar:
I'm cautiously optimistic about it. It seems like it might be good news but I think there are still some details that need to be teased out of the council before we start partying.
It still seems like there could be some fairly big cuts to the budget - we're still talking about 30% cuts at the least - so it could be difficult to maintain the current service levels with those kinds of cuts and that's a concern.
It's also not clear quite how the community interest company would work in practice. I'm glad the county council have realised they need to do something but I am not sure whether they have got it quite right.Saxmundham Library campaigner Jennie Pink is also quoted and points out the threat to individual libraries remains:
I would like to see the small print, and find out what happens next. I feel we're still looking at any one of the libraries being told they are too small...so we could still all be under threat.So clearly there are still many questions about what is proposed. In my view the main issues that we need to seek more information from the county council are:
- Budget - What will the budget for the community interest company (CIC) be? Why are cuts of 30% or more still proposed when the council's total budget was cut by less than 20%
- The CIC - How would it work? Who would be on the Board of Directors
- Staff - Will Suffolk CC conduct a proper consultation of its staff? Staff could be heavily involved in the CIC as members of the company and have seats on the Board of Directors but Suffolk CC have seemed reluctant to contemplate this previously, rejecting out of hand a proposal from staff to run the service before the consultation began.
- Head of Suffolk Libraries - The CIC will need leadership, will Suffolk CC now appoint a successor to Roger McMaster as Head of Suffolk libraries to lead the CIC?
- Accountability - how would the CIC be accountable to the public. Community members of the Board of Directors are mentioned but how would these be appointed
I very much hope that in working out this detail Suffolk engage with both its own library staff (who seem to have been largely ignored so far) and with the local campaign and community groups that have emerged as part of the process so far. This new tactic of listening that Judy Terry showed on Monday with the climbdown needs to become a habit if not it will look like that announcement was a knee jerk reaction a few days before an election.....