Letters to leaders

29 Jun

Rosehill Readers have today sent letters to Suffolk County Councillors and MPs asking them to pause and reconsider their library decisions.

Our letter to Mark Bee, Leader of Suffolk County Council:

Dear Councillor Bee,

The Libraries’ Policy / Council / Cabinet Decisions

1) We are part of a network of groups seeking to maintain the quality, integrity and sustainability of Suffolk County Council’s library service.  Following our attendance at the SCC Scrutiny Meeting on the 14th June 2011, we would request that you give serious consideration to the points in this letter and would ask you to meet representatives of our group at your earliest convenience and certainly before the Cabinet meeting on the 19th July 2011, to discuss this matter.

2) It is now five months since the library consultation began and two months since the process closed and there is still no clear SCC policy on the issue.

3) In addition there are a series of unsatisfactory elements, and deeply worrying concerns associated with the current library policies and processes that need to be examined and considered before any precipitate decisions are taken by yourself or your Council and Cabinet.

Our points of concern are listed below:

4.1) The consultation process has been methodologically flawed and could be subject to legal challenge.

4.2) The consultation process has failed to properly address issues of equalities impact assessment including retrospectively examining the impact upon ethnic minorities.

4.3) A significant number of the so-called expressions of interest were submitted on what amounts to a false prospectus i.e. the original closure threats and the original distinction between county and community libraries. Further, the status of mobile libraries remains unclear.

4.4) There was some discussion of cost reduction at Scrutiny Committee. It is unclear whether SCC wishes to cut 30% from the budget of each individual library and an additional 30% from the back-office library functions. Or, whether the proposed 30% cost reduction is sought only from individual libraries.

4.5) The council appears to have failed, from the outset, to fully examine the full range of financial alternatives to raising revenue and reducing costs without divesting the service.  This was clearly reflected by comments at the Scrutiny meeting.

4.6) The officers of the Council clearly reported to the Scrutiny members that the overall response to the consultation was that:(a)  The libraries were highly regarded as they are run now and receive  “overwhelming support from the public”

(b)  There were virtually no supportive statements in public responses to the county council’s declared policies

4.7) At many stages of the consultation process (i.e. meetings, interviews, radio programmes etc) different and contradictory policy statements have been made and commitments given that have not been fulfilled.

4.8) The very people who know most about the effective and efficient operation of the library service have not been able to express freely their opinions. This was revealed after a staff manager was invited by the Chair of that Scrutiny Committee to “speak as he saw fit”.

4.9) With the possible exception of Aldeburgh, the Scrutiny Committee received no clear evidence that the divestment model would work for libraries. This message came forward so strongly, that at one point in the afternoon the Chair asked witnesses, the public and the councillors to “get us out of a hole”.

5) It is still not clear what problem the council is trying to solve. It is our opinion that divestment is not a solution to either a financial problem or a wish to see more local input to library policy and function.

5.1) For these reasons and others we would urge you as the newly elected leader of the council not to rush precipitately into any decision which needlessly threatens the integrity and sustainability of the library service and which could well be the subject of much regret to all in Suffolk in the future.

You are on the record as saying that the New Strategic Direction is to be changed.  Divestment was a key part of that policy, yet we cannot detect any substantive changes in current policies for the library service. Continuing with divestment, would, in our view, lead inevitably to: the fragmentation of the library network; a reduced level of service; a reduced quality of service and the eventual loss of libraries in Suffolk.

Recently the government has “paused” in response to major public and professional opposition to NHS policy. It is also reconsidered policy on Forestry divestment and on sentencing. This is seen as a mark of a listening government.

We therefore urge you, most strongly, to consider a pause for reflection in respect of the proposed library policy and we ask for an open meeting with you as council leader, at the first opportunity before the proposed cabinet meeting.

Yours sincerely

Save Suffolk Libraries Network Group : Rosehill





One Response to “Letters to leaders”

  1. Glen Chisholm June 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    I know I’m preaching to the converted but the Suffolk county council miss judged public opinion and how passionate people are about the libraries and the important role they play in the community,they know they messed up and don’t seem to know how to fix it and lack the sense to consultant the people who would understand the situation the best

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