Cabinet Member for Libraries
Cabinet member with responsibility for libraries Judy Terry said the county would be looking at three options to run the library service in future:Talking about the consultation Ms Terry said:
An in-house business unit similar to the Schools Library Service.
An external, but wholly council-owned, company.
An independent company managed by the county through contractual arrangements.
Mrs Terry said the second and third options would allow communities to have a significant say in how their libraries were run.
She insisted that it had always been her intention to avoid library closures if possible, but when a distinction was made between 15 “county libraries” and 29 “community libraries” earlier this year, it was widely seen that the smaller ones were under threat.
Communities felt that they were being warned that if they did not step in to run their library it would be likely to close.
Mrs Terry said the council had been delighted at the response to its consultation earlier in the year, and had taken on board the comments made.
“It was clear how much people value their libraries. We were pleased to get a strong response. There is nothing worse than having a consultation exercise and no one takes part.”
She said a number of things had become clear, but one point stood out: “Most important of all was not closing any of Suffolk’s libraries.
“We feel the proposals being put forward strike the right balance between protecting much-loved council services while finding necessary and unavoidable financial savings.”If all Suffolk libraries do stay open that is, clearly, good news and a significant victory for library campaigners. Labour Councillor Bryony Rudkin recognises this when she says:
“You have to say, though, that campaigners have fought very well to save their libraries.”Concerns, however, remain about how any proposed external company might operate and how such an arrangement will cut costs and benefit the service. It is interesting to see (for the first time) an in-house offering on the table and I hope the Council will carefully consider this and it is not just there to be rejected later on.
But the biggest concern must be the budget for whatever the governance structure you can't run any service well without enough money and the level of cuts proposed still seems to be the 30% that we started originally with. The only change here is at first this was at least 30% possibly more but now looks to be no more than 30%. This is still a huge cut, especially for a service that is already one of the worst funded in the country.