We need to fight ideology from the left and the right to Save Suffolk's Libraries

Front page of today's EADT
If you read the EADT this morning you may well conclude that Suffolk's libraries are under threat again. I think you would be right but not in the way the EADT article suggests.

Having defended Suffolk's libraries from an ideological attack from the right who were determined to see the service broken up and "divested" handing it to local communities or even private companies to run sadly it looks like a similar ideological attack from the left has begun.

This new attack from the left seems to be due to the insistance by some that the library service "must" be run by the County Council and that as such the IPS must be a bad thing. Some would appear happy to see a worse service just so long as the it was still under Council control.

I have already written about the disingenuous suggestions that the library service is "close to breaking point" which was based on a list of problems all of which the IPS inherited from the County Council.

The subject of today's EADT article is UNISON's response to the IPS's proposals to restructure the services in the back office of the IPS mainly because it now needs to deal with issues such as HR, Finance and IT that the County Council previously covered.

In fact none of the staff in any of the 44 branches of Suffolk Libraries are directly affected at all by the consultation. This, however, does not stop UNISON claiming:
“It seems incomprehensible that the IPS proposes to reduce the staffing and resource to this front line service which reaches out to some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in Suffolk – and yet can find the money to appoint more staff at higher grades in the organisation.”
They are able to make this claim because the consultation does include the reduction in staff and service to the mobile library service. However, as UNISON know full well, this reduction was made by the County Council and the IPS have no choice but to implement it. In point of fact the County wanted to go further, cutting the number of mobile vehicles so there would not even be a spare but the IPS were able to get them to drop this.

So actually we are discussing here a restructuring of back office staff. You can read the proposals that the IPS made and the response from UNISON on Suffolk Unison's website (click on Suffolk Libraries on the menu on the left hand side)

Now I completely understand that it is the job of trade unions to support their members and my guess is they have quite a few of those amongst the already higher graded "central" staff of Suffolk libraries than they do in the front line branches.

Whilst the UNISON response makes some sensible points sadly it appears to consist largely of a what begins to look like a personal vendetta against General Manager Alison Wheeler. One of the most absurd of the anonymous comments is:

It's A***ea all over again!
Clearly a reference to Andrea Hill, former Suffolk County Council CEO.

These kind of references make the document lose all credibility and there are other dubious claims, for example UNISON suggest that:
There was considerable concern expressed about the proposed grading of the Personal Assistant to the General Manager. Staff felt it was not appropriate for this post to be a suggested Grade 5 when Library managers are only a Grade 4. 
Sounds dreadful, right? However if you look at the IPS proposal there is not a post that is just the PA to the General Manager but rather a PA and Office Manager post:
The PA/Office manager will have three main areas of duties. They will support the General Manager, they will be the clerk to the Board and they will be the supervisor of the admin staff who work in the IPS Headquarters.
The suggested grade by the way pays between 23K and 26K per year.

UNISON's consultation response and the corresponding news report seem a deliberate attempt to undermine the IPS and in my view will make the future of Suffolk's libraries less secure. Incredibly UNISON even include this comment about working with local community groups giving their own time free to help save their members jobs:

Staff wish to know who will be attending meetings with local community groups after hours. There is a need for reassurance that staff will not be expected to do this either in their own time or be forced to change their pattern of work to take on these tasks.

Perhaps the local groups should just pack up and find something else to spend their time on.

It was notable that the unions had a low profile during the library campaigns and somewhat strange that they appear more interested in attacking the IPS than they were the County Council.

Ideology is once again the enemy. Be it from the left or the right it is little different and pragmatists that want to see the library service continue need to resist it.
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