Suffolk's "vision" for Libraries

Last week Suffolk County Council were telling anyone who would listen that all libraries were "saved". They also produced a huge amount of information on their website detailing their proposals for libraries in the short and longer term. As you would expect the situation is a bit more complicated than the headlines.

I will provide links to this information and a brief summary of the proposals now I have had a chance to read all the material.


As promised Suffolk County Council published the full responses to the consultation on Friday. You can see them in full on the Suffolk Website.

The data on there is very complete but a little difficult to go through so I have re-formatted the results to make them easier to read, see:

Summary (What people thought of the CC's plans): Read on Wikisuffolk - Download (DOCX 295Mb)
Full Spreadsheet of Responses (reformatted) Read on Wikisuffolk-  Download (XLSX 1.48Mb)

This makes interesting reading! It is very clear that the plans were comprehensively rejected by the respondents to the consultation with the overwhelming  majority (estimated by Suffolk themselves as around 80%) wanting the service to remain as it is and rejecting the Council's plans.

Vision and Plans

Suffolk's vision for the future of libraries can be seen in the comprehensive 155 page document 2011 Review of Library Services (PDF 2.62Mb).

Their immediate plans can be seen in the Cabinet Papers for the 19th July meeting:

Library Service for the Future (DOC 111Kb)
Appendix 1: Consultation Results (DOC 113Kb)
Appendix 2: Options for Structural Model for Library Services (DOC 61Kb)
Appendix 3: Mobile Libraries, At Home Service and Community Outreach (DOC 78Kb)
Appendix 4: Statutory Duties (DOC 54Kb)

To really get a grip of the plans you need to read both the review documents and the cabinet papers!


If you don't have time to read all the papers here is a brief summary of my take on their plans:

  • No libraries face immediate closure, certainly none will close in April 2012 as the consultation document suggested they might
  • The cabinet have three main choices of future governance structure County Council in-house business unit, County Council owned company or enterprise or Independent company or enterprise
  • Options for a regional library service and public/private partnership are not recommended
  • More work will be done on structural options including best value analysis and a final decision made at November cabinet
  • Pilots of community libraries run by local community groups or councils are recommended
  • The 30% cut is still "set in stone" but this has been modified to be 30% rather than "at least 30%"
  • It looks like the in-house option has been reluctantly added due to the huge number of people in the consultation who wanted the service to remain as it is
  • The split between "county" and "community" libraries has been abandoned and replaced with a whole new "access model"
  • This model uses deprivation indices to suggest where additional  libraries should be located in the urban areas of Ipswich and Lowestoft. The main libraries in these towns are clearly safe as are Gainsborough and Chantry in Ipswich
  • Additional libraries should be opened in Whitehouse/Whitton in Ipswich, and Kirkley in Lowestoft "when funding is available"
  • The existing Ipswich Libraries (Rosehill, Stoke and  Westbourne) and Lowestoft (Oulton Broad) would not be required by the access model but due to "impassioned pleas" for them to stay open they look to be treated similarly to libraries in Key Service Centres (see below)
  • However in rural areas (the rest of the county) where travel distance is a real issue the existing Local Development Framework classifications are now used
  • There will definitely be a static library in  "Towns" so Aldeburgh, Beccles, Brandon, Bungay, Bury St Edmunds, Eye, Framlingham, Great Cornard, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Haverhill, Leiston, Mildenhall, Needham Market, Newmarket, Saxmundham, Southwold, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Woodbridge  libraries look safe
  • There are existing libraries in 14 out of the 60 "key service centres" at Capel StMary, Clare, Debenham, Elmswell, Glemsford, Ixworth, Kedington, Kessingland, Lakenheath, Lavenham, Long Melford, Kesgrave, Stradbroke, Thurston and Wickham Market that whilst not under immediate threat of closure are envisaged to need local community support to survive (such as volunteers or financial support from local councils). They might also provide "outreach service" to other areas
  • In other "key service centres" outreach, mobile libraries or a "drop off" service are options. This could be the future service in some of the KSCs with existing libraries in the longer term, the level of local support looks to be the main determining factor
  • Other than Ipswich and Lowestoft it is envisaged pretty much all libraries will be "co-located" with other services so some moves could certainly be on the cards
  • There will be another consultation in the autumn on mobile library services
Suffolk County Council 3327027125938750296

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