SCC Full Meeting 15.12.2011 transcript

10 Feb

Save Suffolk LibrariesAt the top of this blog page (just below the ‘ROSEHILL READERS’ banner), you will see a link to the transcript document.

This seems a little late, but these things take time to pull together. On Thursday 15 December 2011 the Full Council Meeting of Suffolk County Council debated and voted on the future of the public library service in our county. The motion to divest the service to an Industrial Provident Society was, needless to say, driven through by the large Tory majority.  We believe that this vote is a significant point in the libraries campaign: a watershed between (a) protesting and trying to influence Council Officers, Councillors and public opinion through campaigning, formal questioning in Council meetings and (b) the high-speed and high-risk divestment of a valued service to the unknown quantity of the IPS as part of big cuts to library funding.

Rosehill Readers has always believed that the libraries and Record Offices in Suffolk should be funded, managed and wholly run by our Library Authority as required by law: Suffolk County Council. 83% of respondents to the SCC Libraries Consultation in spring 2011 agreed with this. As a campaigning group we must now assess our role in this changed political landscape. Things are moving very fast and IPS interim board members and a General Manager are now in place. Library divestment pilot projects seem to be something of a shambles and information is thin on the ground. Staff in the libraries (those who remain after the massive cuts to the central and support services) are having to carry the burden of uncertainty over the service including their own jobs and the concerns of the public. We support them in these troubled times and can only praise the ability of dedicated staff to maintain the service during a long freeze on staff recruitment and reduction in back office support.

Rosehill Readers has created a transcript (see the link at the top of our blog page) of the Full Council debate which preceded the vote in December. We have made it as accurate to the audio recording provided by SCC as possible. We make it available here, so that people who were not able to attend can read what was said by Councillors. Here are a few choice morsels pulled from the transcript.

“… the council got to the edge of Beachy Head but didn’t actually quite decide to jump. (Laughter in chamber) I feel that is a very good way of putting the way things have panned out in the past few months.” Cllr. Penny Otton – Liberal Democrat

“A library is a recognisable and welcoming place for everybody whoever they are, from whatever their walk of life and wherever they belong, and I think that actually what you risk doing with this, and I, I say this by way of warning whether anyone listens is completely up to you, if you put something at one remove from this Council – from the heart of public service in this county – you may find that actually you no longer have that connection with people and that you are not able to talk to them. … I think here you are not just saving money; I think you are selling part of your soul.” CllrBryony Rudkin – Labour and Co-operative

“most of the libraries in this county were set up in the nineteenth century by Victorian philanthropists and the reason that they are run as a county service, a coherent and comprehensive county service, is because they did not work as independent charities or independent privately-run businesses. If they are going to be sustainable and comprehensive and coherent then I would submit to you that the best way of making that happens is run them as a council service.” Cllr. Sandy Martin – Labour and Co-operative

“We believe and really, truly feel that the library service has a future. If anything there is the scope for new libraries to be opened if there is the desire for them to be created in communities.” Cllr. Mark Bee – Conservative Leader

“I would like to pay tribute to the people of Suffolk who led the protests, who took to the streets and who made you think and who made you stop sitting on your hands and do something.  It might not be what they want but I have heard more questions in this chamber from them than any, so I would like pay tribute to them: [looking across at members of the public who asked public questions at the beginning of the meeting] well done and keep on doing it.” Cllr. David Wood – Liberal Democrat

“I’m disappointed that some members opposite continue to play politics with the library service.  We said right from the outset when I launched the, er, consultation that it was not the intention of this council to close libraries.” CllrJudy Terry – Conservative & Portfolio holder

[N.B. “The council will be meeting interested organisations and community groups, and organising question and answer sessions. However, should responses to the consultation prove disappointing, it is imperative that we make the necessary savings, meaning that we may have to close 29 libraries.” – Cllr. Judy Terry in the Libraries Consultation document, January 2011]

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