Archive | July, 2012

Record of IPS/Rosehill Readers Discussion held on Wednesday 23rd May 2012

11 Jul

IPS (Industrial & Provident Society, due to run Suffolk’s library service from August 1, 2012): Alison Wheeler (General Manager), Ian Brookman (Interim Finance Director)

RR (Rosehill Readers):MD,MG,JG,PG.

1.0      Opening Statements

1.1 RR opened by confirming their principled opposition to the divestment policy of SCC based on the IPS model .

1.2 IPS  noted that, and said that questions relating to the divestment and overall funding needed to be addressed to the SCC , not the IPS.

1.3 RR stated that they only wanted to be told what could be reported back to other supporters/contacts. IPS accepted this caveat and would tailor their responses accordingly.

Explanatory Note

The following report refers to the paragraph numbers in RR’s original document to the IPS – the questions are not repeated to save space. IPS/RR statements are recorded as closely as possible to that reference but in some cases are a free-standing record of the discussion not specifically identified by paragraph number.

2.1     Set up – Funding – Sustainability

Ref Que 2.1.1 Rosehill Readers questioned the validity of the original plans that argued that outsourcing would save money .  The claimed savings which were predicated on the charitable status of the IPS would in fact, because of government change of policy, be available to a local authority as well.

IPS said the decisions on the financial aspects of divestment itself  needed  to be addressed to SCC and not IPS. IPS is a not for profit company but will need to act in a business-like  way.

The IPS referred to  the press release issued on the day saying that detailed contract negotiations about finance, contract length, schedules and specifications are in hand. It was emphasised that the IPS board were, and indeed saw themselves as being, separate from the council and were independently minded. The IPS , in answer to a question about the likely year 2 funding limit set by SCC, said that the IPS were seeking the longest and most sustainable funding possible and were focusing on outcomes and how outcomes are measured as part of the contract negotiations.

The IPs said they are currently negotiating a contract with SCC in order to try and establish the most sustainable future for the organisation. The IPs is giving “due diligence” to these negotiations in order to ensure that the contract for running the library service is practicable, sustainable and financially viable. In order to ensure “due diligence” they have brought in legal expertise. The contract negotiations have become “quite complex”, involving both SCC and IPS seeking expert professional advice, especially legal.

RR commented that the council tax payers of Suffolk were actually paying for the legal costs of both sides, and wondered how much extra this would cost. RR asked if SCC/IPS staff actually filled in timesheets in order to be able to properly calculate the full costs involved. It was reported that timesheet  systems were not used by the IPS., and the IPS cannot comment on SCC practices.

    •     Accountability, Transparency and Public Engagement

Ref Que 2.2.2 IPS reported that there was still some practical detail to be worked through  on the IPS rules. The rules are based on a pre-existing FSA model available on the FSA website.  A copy of the Suffolk IPS document was supplied to RR.

RR stated that there was very little public information available about what was going on.IPS said that publication of information was, in part at least held back because of the protracted nature of the contract negotiations.

IPS said that, at the moment, the IPS were not running the libraries, they were still being run by SCC. Today there are only two employees of the IPS.

Ref Que 2.2.4 IPS stated that, in due course a website would be established which would give the public more information. At present it was anticipated that this would be online in September. At the moment therefore agenda items and minutes of the IPS meetings could not be made public. The IPS stated that the precise nature of what is to be published has not yet been decided.

Ref Que 2.2.5  Individual members of the board should not be contacted as in the same way one would expect an SCC member might be. One could write to the board as a whole and at this stage this can be via the General Manager. Not clear if this will alter when the full board is elected/appointed.

Rosehill Readers stressed the important distinction to be drawn between a public service model ( a traditional local authority open access) and a private business model/approach where issues of commercial confidentiality and non-public meetings are more normal. It was agreed that the IPS would look at issues of public engagement more closely.

 Note: RR do not think that Que 2.2.3 and Que 2.2.6 were addressed.
The IPS did state that there will be regular meetings between the SCC commissioner and the ISP as part of the contract montoring.

Further Note:  Section 2.3 Staff Resources – Service Levels – not addressed at the meeting. The IPS cannot comment on staffing as there are legal processes to be followed.

2.4       Offloading Responsibility to “ Communities”, Fragmentation of the Library Service and the  5%

Friends Groups/ Structures

There was a lengthy discussion on this topic and it was agreed that this issue had triggered numerous queries and questions in many parts of the county. The IPS suggested that the model foreseen was one which is similar to that of school governors and their relationship to a school.

The IPS said that the local library structures were developing, as a consequence of practice “ on the ground” as much as following a pre-ordained SCC format as envisaged in some of last year’s reports. The “ menu of delegated responsibilities” highlighted in those reports will not be used as a blueprint. The menu idea put forward, then, should be seen more as a conceptual model to advise debate.

The IPS said the principle of different levels of responsibility ( the menu) was still valid, but in relation to this and the overall divestment policy. it should be noted that there had been a change of  SCC leadership and Chief Executive and consequently a change, or amendment of views within the council that could result in a modification of plans.

Ref Que 2.4.6 The council , for example, will  now retain ownership of all buildings,  book stock and IT equipment. There will be a form of joint responsibility for maintenance/renewal of buildings, the detail is still being discussed/negotiated.

Rosehill Readers queried why there had been such an emphasis on local “friends groups” having to be incorporated as legally accountable bodies. Rosehill Readers did not see the logic of this ( see later points re  5%)

Rosehill Readers queried why both SCC and the IPS seemed to infer that the existing and long-standing system of libraries did not facilitate individuals/groups being involved with, influencing or participating in library-based initiatives anywhere in the county. They do now and have done for decades.

Rosehill Readers asked again what exactly did “local governance” amount to if the buildings, stock, IT system etc were to continue being owned by SCC; that all staff were employees of the IPS; that building maintenance  was being done  jointly  by SCC/IPS, and that local groups were not in fact being required to be responsible for a proportion of running costs then there seemed to be no meaningful requirement for the IPS to require incorporation, particularly as this issue had caused a considerable amount of discomfort to existing library support/campaign groups. The IPS is aware of this issue, is working this through and will respond in due course.

Rosehill Readers expressed concern regarding double taxation on the one hand ( via Parish or Town precepts), or local groups having to raise 5% of the direct costs of their library on the other hand.

Rosehill Readers also questioned whether the 95% funding for the 1st year could easily drop in future years therefore exacerbating the pressure on small councils/local fund raising.

Ref Que 2.4.7 IPS stated that the 5% shortfall  issue had become a red herring. Although the 5% issue could be inferred from past SCC reports things had now moved on. There was first of all no readily agreed and understood definition of the total direct costs. The £100,000 to be “found” did not equate to 5% of direct costs because that would imply a direct cost of £2ml. The direct costs were definitely higher than that. The last quoted total library budget from which the 30% savings over three years had to be made was £8.9 m. Direct costs were significantly greater than £2ml but nowhere near £8.9m. Rosehill Readers suggested that it might be £4-5m. More appropriate figures should  be available after the contract has been signed.

IPS said that the calculation of relevant costs had been altered because the SCC were to retain the assets of the buildings, book stock and IT equipment (building maintenance issues were still being discussed). It was also likely that all staff would be employed by the IPS, not local library groups.

IPS explained, therefore, that they envisaged that the contract agreement when finalised this summer, would identify/specify the schedule of services to be provided by the IPS and would agree a level of funding for that service, and by implication facilitate any service enhancements that SCC might require.

These would, therefore, not  be a specifically identified 5% of running costs for the IPS, as a whole, or for individual libraries, such that a specific library or township would be told you need to raise “x” thousands of pounds to keep the library running as it is now.

IPS referred back to the council resolution of December 2011 which had been against inequitable double taxation.  RR said it was therefore not really clarified as to how much money , if any, local library groups would be required to raise, if at all. It was agreed that this issue had caused a lot of disquiet in many areas and therefore clarification of what financial requirements if any, were to be required of local groups, by either /or both the SCC and IPS , would be useful.

Ref Que 2.4.8 IPS explained that the nature of the pilots had changed from that originally envisaged by SCC. They had ceased really to be a clear stage in a structured evaluation process, but were to be viewed as examples of evolving practice now with a greater involvement of the newly emerging IPS. There would not therefore be a formal evaluation process of the pilots by SCC because the decision to set up the IPS had already been taken.

IPS envisaged that local initiatives, partnerships funding by third parties etc would enhance the total resources available to the library service.

Some Friends groups are interested in extending their services by now being able to access local funding. Innovative projects e.g. Wickham Market “reading service” for blind and partially-sighted people is being supported by the RNIB. These sorts of projects will be supported by the IPS.

RR asked about libraries where a local population might not have the time/energy/capability/skills to innovate projects. IPS explained that community development will be part of the IPS functions. Specific projects may be initiated by the Board in particular libraries or areas. Policy decisions, such as these will be made public. This was in response to a comment from RR that such groups will most likely thrive in affluent or middle class.  IPS then responded by citing Voices 4 Gainsborough as an example that challenges this.  RR pointed out there are always exceptions to general rules.

2.5        Rosehill Library  Ipswich Co-op, Small Libraries

Ref Que 2.5.4 The IPS would prefer to see each library in Ipswich having its own voice, as opposed to all six libraries being a single IPS member. The IPS  stated that the Ipswich Library Managers Co op  as an experiment had run out of steam and the issues raised during its period of formation would be incorporated into IPS thinking.

Ref Que 2.5.6 In relation to the vacant post at Rosehill library the IPs explained that they were not at this stage responsible for staffing. The post had not been filled because SCC had a recruitment freeze at the moment.

The IPS would not be formally constrained by the SCC recruitment freeze policy. They would envisage being able to recruit staff and make redundancies if necessary, their constraints would be the budget/resources. The IPS could not yet say if they would recruit a permanent Rosehill manager. Rosehill Readers emphasised how important a dedicated manager/figurehead is for a small library.

The IPS said that where there are libraries which do not have a local group , they would seek to encourage one to be set up.

Lack of time precluded addressing Questions:

2 .6        Property

2.7         Risk – The Future

2.8         The Libraries Act

3.0        Conclusions

It was agreed that, although there was a significant difference between the views and perspectives of the SCC/ IPS and Rosehill Readers, continued communication was still worthwhile. Such communication would be based on mutual respect. IPS concluded by saying that three particular areas had been highlighted by the discussion that the IPS would look into: local governance; communication and the assessment and explanation of the community contribution i.e. “ not 5%”.

4.0 RR Note: It was suggested by IPS , before the meeting, that if necessary there could be a follow-on meeting if all areas were not covered. This may well be applicable. RR would suggest that IPS may wish in the first instance to respond to those questions in the original document that were not addressed at the meeting. The situation can then be considered as to the need for a subsequent meeting.

The IPS will respond to questions, when it is able to do so.  There are currently contractual constraints, and there will be a staff consultation after the go-live of 1 August which means that questions about staffing cannot be answered until after this.

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