Ipswich Library Pilot Collapses as IPS has a difficult start

IPS Chair Clive Fox
The planned staff co-operative for libraries in Ipswich has collapsed. Six out of the seven Ipswich libraries were due to be part of the pilot but two withdrew last week, including the Central Library leaving the plans unsustainable. The collapse of the Ipswich pilot comes as "Suffolk's Libraries IPS" begins its plans to transition staff from the County Council to the new not for profit body.

This comes as another blow to IPS Chairman Clive Fox who missed a meeting earlier this month of the pilot groups at Bury St Edmunds. It was revealed on Suffolk Wordblog last week that the Aldeburgh library manager, Iain Rousham had resigned after disagreements with Fox and the County Council's divestment strategy.

Meanwhile the pilots in Stradbroke, Debenham and Eye are still bogged down with buildings issues as the somewhat convoluted relationships between County, the IPS and local groups continues to be bottomed out.

There are also concerns about the structure that is going to be needed by local library groups in order to enable them to join the IPS with the suggestion that complicated "membership" corporate bodies will need to be established for each of the 44 libraries at considerable cost in both time and money.

What seems to be emerging is that Fox and the County Council see the future of Suffolk's libraries as a collection of individual self-governing local libraries rather than a coherent countywide service. This is especially concerning for smaller libraries. There have even been suggestions that some staff might be more or less immediately transferred to local groups meaning such staff would be subject to two TUPE consultations in less than a year.

Cllr Judy Terry
Cabinet Library Lead
The use of volunteers also remains an issue that the IPS needs to make a decision on as there are suggestions that volunteers could be use to do jobs currently undertaken by paid professional staff. Clearly volunteers will play a part as they do now in Suffolk Libraries but this must be subject to some clear agreed constraints.

Iain Rousham had remarked after leaving Aldeburgh that:
"Judy Terry, like a drowning woman, clutched at Clive Fox as a man who could deliver her plan"
The question is can Fox really deliver this plan? It seems the early indications are not encouraging and that the IPS may need to look for a change of leadership if it is to avoid collapsing before it has even got started. Suffolk County Council also need to accept it is an independent body and resist the temptation to interfere in decisions and appointments.

Or they could save a great deal of time, effort and money and keep it in house retaining local groups to support each library but requiring a much less bureaucratic and complicated arrangements. How on earth this is saving money I have no idea. it just seems to be passing the buck from where I am standing and the worry is more and more of the staff that makes the library service what it is will end up leaving if this continues.
suffolk libraries IPS 275835302539716151

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