Calls for Suffolk Cabinet to postpone library decision

Cllr Guy McGregor
Library supporters from North Suffolk have written to Cabinet member and local councillor Guy McGregor urging him to press the cabinet to postpone the final decision on a governance structure for Suffolk's libraries. It is clear the council favour the "industrial and provident society" (IPS) model the their best value evaluation suggests is the best option but information has come to light suggesting further investigation needs to be made before a final decision is taken.

Community groups taking part in the pilots are also worried about timescales as Ann Kerr, Chairman of Stradbroke Parish council states:
I have no political or ethical problems with an IPS to run the library service. However, the document itself outlines the amount of work that will need to be undertaken and the risks involved. I have serious doubts that, because of the reduced workforce, SCC officers will have the capacity to implement this scheme in the time proposed.
It is fair at this point to praise Suffolk County Council for not going down the path that Brent and others have and closing libraries. It is also right to point out that Suffolk have been willing to look at innovative ideas but it is really important that the right model is chosen.

Stradbroke resident Chris Edwards who has a background in charity governance at Director level has written to Cllr McGregor with a detailed set of questions about the proposal which I have reproduced in full on Wikisuffolk.

In short there are several proposed changes to the regulation of industrial and provident societies that may impact the proposal. Chris suggests that a structure that will allow conversion to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) which is a new form of charity would be the best idea and points to changes in regulator for IPS.

Edwards says:
The first problem is that setting up as an IPS will not allow the charity to convert to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) the new social business model which will come into being soon. This is because a public benefit IPS is an exempt charity, and this form of organisation is not currently empowered to convert to a CIO. CIO’s offer by far the best option for future long term potential for community growth and development over and above IPS’s.
Other concerns have been raised about the length of time the business rates "savings" would really be available for given that the Government seems set to make business rates be retained locally. The risk is that the tax "saving" will just the future reduce SCC's revenue so not  be a saving at all or at least not much of one.

All of us who have been engaged in this process have found it harder than we thought and if Cabinet decided today that extra time was needed to make the right decision I think this would be something we could all get behind and support. It would be a shame to rush the decision and make a costly mistake and I hope Cabinet can be brave and postpone the decision.
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