Libraries Still Under Threat of Divestment

11 May

Rosehill Readers have sent this press release tonight. It’s not buried at a silly hour on purpose,  it’s just been sent when I had five minutes!

Libraries Still Under Threat of Divestment

11/05/2011 Rosehill Readers, Ipswich on behalf of Save Suffolk Libraries

Contrary to what the press have been reporting recently, Suffolk libraries are not all safe and there has been no “U-turn” on this issue. To clarify, On BBC Radio Suffolk (02/05/11) Cllr. Judy Terry announced that she “hopes” no libraries will close, which offers no guarantees and is the same statement she issued at the petition handover the week before (27/04/11). The public need to be aware that at present the New Strategic Direction has not been completely abandoned. Under the Community Interest Company (CIC) model proposed by Judy Terry it seems that the library buildings will be owned by SCC and libraries may be given funding by SCC, but SCC will not necessarily be responsible or accountable for how libraries are run, staffed and managed. This will directly affect front line services and would be “divestment” or outsourcing of the service by a different name. It raises several questions:

1) No libraries should be closed and no jobs lost. How many library closures and cuts to funding would a CIC system make our library service later subject to?

2) What happens to the consultation responses of individuals who did not express an interest in taking on the service themselves? Will their responses be treated as equally valid?

3) Have professional librarians been consulted about this? If they have, how much are they being listened to? Is their knowledge and experience of the service being used, and are they active decision makers in the process?

4) How does SCC intend to implement the CIC model? There should be a standard service across the board to avoid “postcode lotteries” – will this be ensured? Cllr. Judy Terry’s comments suggested that a patchwork service could result from their plans, which means that services like inter-library loans would go, and rural libraries that serve smaller communities could be closed.

5) There is no indication that costs will be lower under a CIC model. Indeed with fragmentation total operating costs could even be higher. What are the projected costs of implementing a CIC (or CICs?) to manage SCC’s library service, and what are the projected costs of operating under one? How does SCC justify these costs?

The majority of CICs are classified as “Physical Well Being Activities; Sporting Activities; Radio and Television Activities and Artistic and Literary Activities”, according to the CIC regulator’s annual report 200-10. There is currently no model for core public services with complex networks being run under a CIC. Local examples of CICs include the John Peel Centre, Felixstowe Radio, and Deben Radio, all of which are small scale social enterprises with minimal administrative costs, and none of which taxpayers would expect their council to provide.

If a CIC or multiple CICs take delegated responsibility for Suffolk’s library service, the service will have to be in accordance with CIC and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) regulations, meaning SCC would not be fully accountable. A benefit of keeping libraries under SCC organisation is that SCC can take advantage of economies of scale and offer a local public face via the local public library.

19,000 signatures, 350 marchers, a legal case, and over 3,000 consultation responses say that libraries are too important to be divested and turned into profit-orientated “social enterprises”. Rosehill Readers, along with other Suffolk wide campaigns and individuals, will continue to protest against these proposals. We want SCC to openly and fairly consult professional librarians and members of the public about their next steps.

Further links and information

CIC Regulator’s homepage: http://bit.ly/mUr5Kx
CIC Regulator FAQ: http://bit.ly/mqI13b
CIC Regulator’s report 2009-2010: http://bit.ly/mO6BTR
CIC regulator’s Operational Report Third Quarter 2010 – 2011: http://bit.ly/iBbiKc
Department for Business Innovation and Skills information on CICs: http://bit.ly/jpMCdo
Department for Business Innovation and Skills general information: http://www.bis.gov.uk/about/who-we-are

About Rosehill Readers

We are an Ipswich-based group made up of library users committed to maintaining the standard of our local library, Rosehill. Our aim is to stop Suffolk County Council from divesting or outsourcing library services in the County. We are opposed to these and other front line public service cuts. Our basic demands are:

1)      Not one library to be closed.
2)      Not one librarian’s job lost.
3)      SCC to ensure a unified county-wide service.
4)      A standard service of internet access and resources for all libraries.

For more information about us please see the following links:
https://rosehillreaders.wordpress.com/
http://twitter.com/#!/SaveRosehill
http://www.facebook.com/rosehillreaders

Other library campaign groups involved in the Save Suffolk Libraries campaign are:
Leiston http://saveleistonlibrary.wordpress.com/
Debenham http://www.wordblog.co.uk/
Saxmundham

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