Suffolk Libraries IPS might have been set up to fail but it must succeed

Suffolk Cabinet Member of Waste, Cllr Lisa Chambers
Last year several of Suffolk's waste centres were taken over by local companies who began to charge the public to dispose of waste. Somewhat unsurprisingly there has been a drop of around 25% in use at the centres. Three sites have had to review their business model following a "considerable drop" in us according to a recent EADT report.

Speaking of the Chelmondiston site Richard Wrinch, chairman of Shotley Parish Council, said: “I don’t think it’s certain it will survive (as it is). There will be something there, what exactly it will be and what type of site I’m not actually sure.”

And Suffolk County Council Portfolio Holder for Waste Lisa Chambers when asked whether the council would step in to save any of the centres, said: “We would have to review as and when anything happens but we made it clear last year we were closing these sites.”

This seems a polite way of saying "nothing to do with us, Guv" and shows the way in which the County Council have been able to use this as a trick to abscond responsibility for a statutory service - in this case the provision of waste sites.

There has to be some chance that they are planning the same for Libraries. That, in effect, the IPS has been set up to fail or at least to act as the fall guy to close libraries whilst the County Council says it is nothing to do with them. Or perhaps to collapse and then the County Council will generously "rescue" some of the libraries. Of course not all of them so in effect managing to close them by the back door.

Now in fairness this is speculation but the situation with waste sites should at least be sounding alarm bells. Even if not set up to fail the County Council might be prepared to allow the IPS to fail and then claim, as they are with waste sites, a lack of local support.

So that is why it is vital that everyone who wants to see Suffolk's libraries stay open makes sure that the IPS succeeds. Staff and campaigners may well continue to have mis-givings about it (I certainly do) but I think they should get behind the IPS and try and help it to succeed.

This means the IPS does need to ensure that it is a strong and independent voice for Suffolk libraries and I agree with the excellent Wordblog article that it would help to drop some of the more "nasty" policies such as cutting pay for newly appointed staff. This would not cost much but would send a strong message to staff and library users that the IPS means business.

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