Archive | October, 2011

Plans to keep Suffolk libraries open and thriving revealed – our response

31 Oct

The Council’s Press Release can be found here.

On June 20th 2011, when Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny Committee made their recommendations on the library service, Rosehill Readers vowed to “continue to campaign against library cuts and divestment.”

Our position has not changed.

Following today’s press release we are bewildered by the reasoning behind the Council’s decision.

Levels of council bureaucracy has never been an issue during this consultation, it has been raised by neither the council nor the campaigners. We fail to see how the council can issue a press release that states the contradiction that they: “want to free the library service from unnecessary council bureaucracy” and “Eventually, every library will have a community group involved and having a direct say in its day to day running.”. Surely 44 extra community groups, each with input on the way that the library service should be run will result in more bureaucracy?

SCC have already slimmed down the operation from by cutting SCC staff, the “unnecessary bureaucracy” that they have removed includes trained and professional Library Staff. What will happen to the existing staff? Will their terms and conditions be met by the new employers? Can they be assured that their pensions will be paid by the IPS?

The Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), is a complicated means of community involvement. Why do we need a “middle-man?” Why does the County want to put a company in the middle, between the electorate and its elected Councillors? The County Council seems to be suggesting that this is better than the system we have at the moment. Is it suggesting that elected County Councillors don’t actually engage properly with their communities?

If the County Council wants to improve community involvement with our libraries, then the County Councillors could set up a library group along with local councillors and residents for each library. This happens already with some libraries in Suffolk. The library service already benefits from the work of volunteers and could attract more. But volunteers must be used alongside qualified, experienced members of staff, not instead of them.

The County Council is also now asking all 44 of Suffolk’s public library to compete for the same diminishing pot of charitable funding. Central Government has cut charitable funding already, and now the County Council are asking for £100,000 to be raised every year to help towards library running costs. What will happen to libraries if this amount can not be met?

Can the council assure us that the ‘grant’ funding will remain in place in future years and that further cuts passed down from central government won’t mean that this grant is reduced or removed?

The Council also state that community groups will “be able to opt for a level of responsibility they feel able to take on”. What will happen to the services they don’t feel able to take on? Who will ensure that levels of internet access and Top Time groups are maintained?

As you can see, our concerns are numerous, and as previously stated, our campaign will continue.

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