SCC Full Meeting 15.12.2011 transcript

Item 10.  Library Services for the Future

To consider the attached report for the Interim Director for Adult and Community Services

A transcipt of proceedings by Rosehill Readers.

Madam Chairman [Patricia O’Brien – Conservative]: Councillor Terry please.

Councillor Terry [Judy Terry – Conservative]:

In January this year we launched the first library review in ten years against a backdrop of budgetary challenges and a 37% reduction in usage.  The extensive public consultation revealed a welcome passion for our libraries and recognition of how they had evolved into community centres alongside books. I reported back to cabinet in July when the vision for the library service was adopted and cabinet agreed that officers should explore and evaluate 3 options for delivering the library service in future. Cabinet also agreed at that time all libraries should be retained – and I do emphasis retained – and that the service should be put on a sustainable footing for the next ten years and beyond having regard to demographic and technological developments as well as the need to have greater community involvement in operating the service.  The Best Value Evaluation process was rigorous and a workshop held at the end of September shared the findings with stakeholders whose suggestions have been incorporated in the proposals before you.

We have listened carefully to campaigners and taken scrutiny’s findings into account in arriving at the recommendations for transferring all library services into an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community this is an ‘IPS’ for short.  During the evaluation we had regard for key factors :-

The county’s statutory responsibilities to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service,

The financial case and scope for innovation,

Potential for income generation and sharing premises,

The county’s aspirations for and commitment to the library service and sustainability as well as community involvement and governance.

The in-house model would not achieve the savings whereas the IPS offers the lowest running costs; savings will arise from charitable status and reducing bureaucracy in terms of corporate and management overheads however the valued front line will be retained, supported by a flat management structure reporting to an elected board. You will note from the report today that a charitable incorporated organisation or CIO was considered but not selected for further consideration because its structure/structures are not suited to larger organisations or for those which may wish to trade across sectors or boundaries and no regulations are in fact in place, nor any date scheduled for them to be put in place by Parliament.  Legal and financial advice has been sought as part of the risk assessment and the Arts Council has praised Suffolk County Council’s approach to future libraries, an IPS model was supported by a councillors’ working group.  The IPS will be independent of the Council, which will be the commissioner, and will not rely on volunteers; nevertheless in the Best Value Evaluation report there are several examples of ways in which volunteers are running libraries successfully and we feel that we can learn some lessons from those activities elsewhere in the country.  If Councillors agree the recommendations today a shadow board will be put in place to implement the new operating model from January next year with elections within eighteen months. In the meantime the  seven pilot projects will progress providing valuable insight into how local communities can deliver services to suit their very individual needs.  The County Council is supporting these initiatives with a view to replicating the various models elsewhere including opportunities for libraries to work in clusters.  This whole exercise has taken a great deal of work over the last year and I am grateful to Anna McCreadie, Guenever Pachent, Aidan Dunn and whole officer team as well as my Conservative colleagues (including Councillor John Klaschka who contributed to the detailed evaluation) for their support.  I am also grateful to the public for their passion during the process. We have done our best to respond to their concerns and recommend a model to sustain and develop the library service in the years to come.  Madam Chairman I believe it is a real hallmark of a Conservative party both nationally and across the country that while other politicians may complain of their lot, stick their head in the sand we just get on with the job. We recognise that there are challenges and we find solutions. We all know that it is, of course, the job of Conservative governments to unfortunately, to clear up the mess left by Labour and this is the second time in my living memory that there has been an appalling financial mess to be  tidied up.  But up and down  the country it is Conservative councils like this one that is facing up to the challenges.  In these difficult circumstances we have come forward with a proposal which I believe will set out libraries on a strong and sustainable footing for the future.  The cabinet have endorsed it and I urge Councillors in this chamber to do so to and I emphasise that the Council retains its statutory duties, responsibilities.

Chairperson: Thank you Councillor Terry; do you have a seconder?

Councillor Smith: Madam Chairman, I am pleased to second the recommendation.  I would like to reserve my right to speak.

Madam Chairman: Thank you. I would now open up the debate and the first speaker is

Councillor Clements.

Councillor Clements [Terry Clements – Conservative]:

Thank you Madam Chairman. I am very pleased and I give my full and confident support on this motion. Why?  I was very privileged to be an assistant to Rosie Clark when she was looking at the libraries in the first place and we had a look round most of the libraries, realised it was not just about books. It was about everything else as well, whether it be belly dancing in Beccles, a children’s centre in Bury and the great work that is being done in Gainsborough with all the different groups that actually met there.  It’s a lot bigger than books.  I can understand where people are concerned about how this will open up and how this will move forward and I can remember, I’ve driven forward the housing change at Haverbury, I was next asked as a portfolio holder to look at a leisure service, a certain Mrs Cadman stood next to me and said ‘What is your decision on that?’ about 24 hours after I was given the post. I said: ‘Give me a chance to read the papers first’ .  Going through the papers it was emphasised  that what could be moved forward and what was in there and how you could improve things and what opportunities there were, that was the most important thing and I am pleased to say that with Abbeycroft they have moved forward they have been able to do this free of the restrictions of councils, have been able to move forward, in fact they did win an award; I think they are top in the country on providing fitness for 16 to 32 year olds in the country.  They have actually moved into Ipswich, I think; they helped Ipswich Borough to look after the Youth Games, that type of thing, and they have actually opened a gym in Ipswich as well. So that’s what it looks like so let’s not talk just about the savings that can be done, let’s look about how things can be expanded.  I believe this is a great opportunity it is more than books it is a lot more than that.  Some of the best consultation I believe we have done as a County Council in taking this forward and this is a template we should be using in future because everyone seemed to get involved. Where I was talking to parish councils everyone seemed to be involved and have a view on the way forward on this one.  So as I said it gives my full support looking forward then this is the one thing we look for; I urge you to make sure that you have got on the board people who are not just interested in books but are interested in finance, health definitely health and also marketing because marketing is the big thing that you need to look at when you are looking at setting up your board. Thank you ever so much.

Madam Chairman: Thank you Councillor Clements. Councillor Otton. Please.

Councillor Otton [Penny Otton – Liberal Democrat]:

Thank you Chairman. Obviously, I am sure that like a lot of members here and members of the public we are pleased that the County Council has decided not to actually close any libraries in the county.  I am afraid I have to quote Councillor Newman, I think, when we were discussing something else, said 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. However, I’m afraid I am not going to be able to support the recommendation that you have in front of you because I think that what you have here has left out an awful lot of questions.  As a member of the Thurston working group, that has been set up when we were threatened with losing our library, we are obviously pleased to being a pilot and obviously developing our plans for the future of the library in Thurston but we were disappointed to/at the removal of mobile libraries where there is a static library. There are some cases, I believe, where this is going to cause serious problems for particularly the elderly. I know in Thurston we are trying to see how we can remedy that.  The other issues that I am concerned about is the make-up and membership of this IPS board and I believe that even though the County Council will be investing a considerable sum of money there actually is no place for an elected member or as an observer in order to monitor the progress of this IPS and I do think that’s a significant concern.  The other issue that I’m worried about is that there is no information on the future of schools’ libraries, prison libraries and Children’s Centre libraries.  There are questions by the Children’s Centres to know exactly what is their future. They do provide an excellent library service what will be the cost, if any, to these Children’s Centres:  they need to be included  in your business plan.  In Thurston for example the Children’s Centre actually extends the hours of the library service for that part of Suffolk, so I  would hope, Chairman, unfortunately I will be reluctant to agree the recommendation because I believe there are issues that have not been resolved.

Madam Chairman: Thank you Councillor Otton. Councillor Rudkin, please.

Councillor Rudkin [Bryony Rudkin – Labour and Co-operative]:

Thank you. I can’t support this either.  I have been thinking about what libraries are about.  I was at a meeting yesterday about security in our Parks and how we might encourage people to report incidents in parks and it occurred to me that as you come out of Christchurch Park in the middle of Ipswich the first building, public building, that you might come across is in fact Crown pools so I spoke to officers of Ipswich Borough Council about making sure that the people on the desk there knew what to do if someone came in and reported an incident.  I thought, actually it depends on which way you walk out of the park because the other public building that you come to is, in fact, the library in Northgate Street and I knew from when I was first on the Council in 1997  that libraries are front line services when it comes to frankly social services, mental health services. Libraries are there for people whether they have gone in to get a book or whatever, they are there for people.  And I haven’t yet had this conversation but I am quite sure that library staff in Northgate Street, they are there for whatever frankly comes in off the street and to deal with people.  And it got me to thinking that, um, libraries aren’t at all about borrowing books are they? Or about CDs or DVDs or even Kindles and electronic means, or reading newspapers or whatever, they are actually the heart and soul of public services in this country and what they represent – more than this building because this isn’t terribly friendly when it comes to people coming in I don’t mean we set out to be unfriendly but it just isn’t what people recognise.  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. And I really don’t know  this is about saving money, because we could sit here and talk about having fewer books and we could talk about having services within the libraries – would not be easy but it would be a discussion and an honest one.  I think here you are not just saving money I think you are selling part of your soul. Thank you.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Rudkin. Councillor Martin, please.

Councillor Martin [Sandy Martin – Labour and Co-operative]:

Thank you, Madam Chairman. Fairly short covering report here, that we have got here in front of us and in the midst of this very thick wodge of paper that we have got for today’s meeting I am not necessarily convinced that every Councillor will have read their way through every page so I would like to move forward slightly to page 144 paragraph 37 and read it out:-

‘Much of the Council’s property portfolio is now affected by new ways of working whether as a result of service redesign, new delivery models blah blah blah…’

I am very convinced that the new New Strategic Direction is now ‘new ways of working’  and the libraries and the libraries issue is a very clear example of how the New Strategic Direction is going forwards in its new form, but its still very much the old New Strategic Direction, and we are discussing a service which is massively valued by the people of Suffolk. They want it to be sustainable they want it to be comprehensive and they want it to be a coherent service.  The portfolio holder let the cat out of the bag slightly in answer to the questions that we had earlier on. Clearly the main motivating factor for this is to seek the lowest running costs. All I can say is that we have, 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.  I am very pleased to hear the promise that, er, they will be taken, – the library service – will be taken back in-house if the proposed arrangement fails.  But I would like to take you back to the other debates we have had and, my goodness, we have had quite a few debates on this. We tried very hard to get the portfolio holder and the administration to promise that none of the libraries will be closed, you have decided not to close the libraries but have you decided to not close the libraries?  That is not just a semantic difference, if your assurance is to take back in-house if there is a total failure of the whole service are you prepared to extend that to taking back in-house to prevent the closure of any of the individual libraries because if not then I foresee that libraries will close anyway under the new arrangement.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Martin. Councillor Page, please.

Councillor Page [Caroline Page – Liberal Democrat]:

I am in a slight difficulty here because Councillor Martin has just said more or less what I was going to say. (Laughter in chamber) But no, I am going to elaborate a little bit, I’m sorry.  Now I am worried about the technicalities of how an IPS can run. I’m really happy at the notion of a strong and sustainable library service, I’m really happy to think of ten years of funding but I just can’t see how it could work in operation. It’s really nice to hear there is likely to be lower community contributions for Suffolk libraries with the IPS but even the lowest proposed contribution is a £100 thousand pounds: that’s substantial and, if so, small static libraries may find it very difficult  to continue.  Now in the 2011 review of library services we were told, as Councillor Martin also mentioned this, that libraries would be taken back in-house. But there will not be an in-house; we will have an IPS. So how is it going to work? Are they all going to be given enough SCC grant funding to make it certain that they can stay open? And if taken back, how can you make sure that the IPS would keep them open?  I mean, surely if they are a separate organisation it will be up to them.  I am particularly concerned because the review in 2011 cast doubts over the long term future of three Ipswich static libraries and one in Oulton Broad.  I would therefore like to keep the library service in-house.

Madam Chairman: Thank you Councillor Page. Councillor Ritchie, please.

Councillor Ritchie [David Ritchie – Conservative]:

Thank you, Chairman. To echo Councillor Martin under the old New Strategic Direction the consultation didn’t get off to a very good start but under what I think he would call the new New Strategic and I will call ‘working with the people of Suffolk’, erm, I think, erm, that we have come to a very good conclusion indeed. And as a member of the Bungay community library working group I would say, you know, that we have had our ups and downs, we have given advice to the county, had a lot of communication in both ways but we are very pleased with the new arrangement and look forward to working as a pilot library.  Very early in this process, talking to Judy Terry the portfolio holder, I realised that she was truly committed to a good future for our libraries and in the Bungay case particularly understood the needs of small rural communities to maintain their library services in a proper fashion so I would really like to thank Judy for that. And also at an early stage Guenever Pachent  gave me the same feelings, so I think they have come through and they have done very well.  Also in Bungay Library the very first thing Mark Bee did throughout two days after he was appointed leader of the Conservative group, and was then to become leader of SCC, he came to Bungay Library and he was presented with a scrap book of events and everything that had been happening in Bungay Library and that was a very positive moment. And I think the people who thought we were going to shut libraries, at that moment it turned around because they believed we were actually committed to a proper library service run efficiently and at reasonable cost to the tax payer.


Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Ritchie. Councillor Newman, please.

Councillor Newman [Graham Newman – Conservative]:

Thank you, Chairman. Yeah, I’m delighted to read in this report and hear the portfolio holder again affirm that the library network in this county is being put on a sustainable footing.  At a time when our income is significantly reducing, and that’s, that’s the thing we we have to take into account, we are keeping front line services going despite a massive reduction in our government grant, and that’s out of our control – that is something that we have to live with. We have got to deliver a front line service to people.  I note and respect what Councillor Martin was saying about how a library service should be provided but I seem to remember in 2004 he was part of an administration which said we should be the facilitators and not the providers and I wonder what’s changed in the past 7 years that has made that happen. But, there we are, that is another issue.  I am very pleased with the assurance a full network of static libraries will be maintained but I would just like to sound one note of caution, that is about how this does go forward. Because for all the people we have seen, we have seen a number of people in the chamber this afternoon who have presented  petitions and such like who greatly love our libraries as they are.  There are a far greater number of people who never set their foot over the threshold and you only have to look today at what is happening in our schools where we find this county is behind in Maths and English when children reach the age of eleven.  And one of the things I have learnt since I’ve been portfolio holder: (I am) increasingly convinced if children can read by the time they get to school they have a huge lift up the educational system. If we could only get to that point and I just hope that in these plans we make sure that our links with Children’s Centres, our links with schools are fully maintained and that actually we go out and do more work to attract parents to teach their children to read. To read with their with children almost from the point they are born and carry that on through their very tender years because there’s results from other authorities and  I mentioned Woking, I mentioned Rochdale, I mentioned Derbyshire, I mentioned Kent where a lot of work had been done to show the links between reading at the age of four not being in education, employment or training by the time you are in your teens, in longevity, in obesity all these issues are addressed by getting people to read early and I hope that is part of the plans going forward.


Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Newman. Councillor Lockington, please.

Councillor Lockington [Inga Lockington – Liberal Democrat]:

Thank you Madam Chairman. It was some words that the portfolio holder said in her speech and that was about that she said: they were people who did not sit with their head in the sand and do nothing. Now I actually think we can all agree on that after the, the announcement last spring that the Suffolk people and the library users did not sit with their head in the hand and did not do anything because what they did, they actually protested, and there was a lot of protest in libraries and certainly a lot of people in Suffolk have been busy doing things.  Personally, as soon as I saw Westbourne, which is in the middle of my division, was on the list of a library that maybe was in the wrong place and not really worth keeping and so on, I went in there and I said ‘can we borrow the library for a meeting?’ I got great support for the neighbourhood and we had far more people in that library than we ever were legally allowed to have and as a result of that there are at moment not people sitting with their head in their hands in Westbourne. But if you go over there, you will probably see their hands covered in white paint because that community group has taken over, they have done so much work. Personally, we have had a summer fete, we have had a Christmas fete, we have done lots of things. I think there are very strong community groups who would like to get involved with libraries. My thoughts are just that: where it doesn’t, where we don’t have quite as strong community groups, it’s so important that all libraries are kept and I think the County Council must be aware of that, you know, even if you don’t have strong community groups – make sure these libraries run. Because maybe in a few years time there may be other people living in that community who can come out and support. What we need to keep an eye on is: where there is today a strong community group, may in five years time some of these people may be not there anymore. So I think it is extremely important for the county to be looking at what’s happening to the libraries and support when community groups, because we all know that when we are involved in community work, that it often comes and goes depending on what people are available in the community.  I would like the IPS to have more Councillor input because I think as we are setting up something new, if that is what you are doing, then it would be really good to have some Councillors there, even just as observers, if they cannot make decisions. Because I think we need that close link so we don’t get this body that goes like CSD and we forget to keep the control on it. Thank you.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Lockington. Councillor Kemp, please.

Councillor Kemp [Richard Kemp – Independent]:

Right, thank you, Madam Chairman. Well, I have two small libraries in my area and I don’t recollect anybody burrowing in the sand in Long Melford or Glemsford we have been quite busy trying to retain those libraries. And I have to say – and I repeat what I have said in this chamber before – the exercise from the start was a total mess.  I am pleased to see some clarity coming onto the situation and I am pleased to say that I think that this is the best solution we can get out of a bad case overall, really.  There is just one or two things that do concern me. I went to a parish meeting on Tuesday night and in the public adjournment I had a chief librarian of one of the small libraries ask me what was happening with the libraries and I thought it was rather strange that an employee didn’t know; because I didn’t really know either, to be quite honest with you. Have we been keeping our staff posted? Because I think it is pretty poor if librarians don’t know what is happening to their own futures really. That may be an exception to the rule, I don’t know, but that is a true case. Secondly, under item 18 on the agenda – or  paragraph 18 – we speak of leases, do we know whether those leases have got any restricted covenants that prevent these things being transferred, have we explored that, for instance? And lastly, I am glad to see we are getting rid of bureaucracy; I am fed up with bureaucracy in everything I get involved with.  But I do think there is an important point that there should be some control and some input from whence the money is coming from i.e the taxpayers of Suffolk and can I be reassured on that point, because the FSA apparently is disappearing out of the equation fairly shortly; so who will carry out the sort of audit side of things please over all this?  Having said all that, I’m in support of what is proposed. Thankyou.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Kemp. Councillor Storey, please.

Councillor Storey [Jane Storey – Conservative Deputy Leader]:

Thank you very much. I was not going to speak in this debate, but I would like to pay tribute to  Judy Councillor Terry because Judy actually took over when Rosie was not very well – Rosie Clark was not very well – and I think she has done a fantastic job, she has been listening to the people of Suffolk.  I was one of the original, sort of, ‘if you don’t use it then you will lose it’ brigade and to a certain extent I still stick by that, because I think there is no point in us providing services at great cost if people are not going to use them and I am firmly of that opinion. I do recognise what Councillor Martin said about the new New Strategic Direction and this is just another form of divestment and I think if we don’t evolve then we will stand still; and we will be having to still provide the same services but with considerably less money and something had to go; and what we’re proposing here or what Councillor Terry is proposing here is an option to still maintain the service but it’s evolving, it’s moving on. And a number of people around the chamber have said that it’s not about books anymore, it’s about so much more.  I mean there are all sorts of things going on in libraries now most of which have nothing to do with books at all.  But I do think we need to move, we need to move with the times.  The original libraries act, I believe, had a requirement that you should always be able to hire gramophone records from the library; well, I am not sure the last time I actually even saw a gramophone record, let alone had a chance to hire one from my library. Councillor Kemp asked about the leases (an aside  to someone coughing: remember we are being recorded). I believe they will be such that if the service fails then we will be able to take back the property and with that I will sit down and let my colleague choke to death.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Storey. Four more people to speak. Councillor Cann please.

Councillor Cann:

(Not recorded.)

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Cann. Councillor Ereira, please.

Councillor Ereira [Mark Ereira – Green]:

Oh thank you Madam Chairman. Just to say, I love my local library and I was using it last week and they provided a fantastic service; and I know that the people that I represent think they/we have a great library in Bury.  I just wanted to echo something that Councillor Kemp said: I don’t think we did get it right in terms of informing our staff. I think that has been a bit of a deficiency here, because a lot of staff when I was speaking to them last week didn’t know where we were with this. And I think that is worth bearing in mind.  But certainly, I saw this paper as certainly good news, really: there are no closures of libraries. So, I very much welcomed it but then I’m getting a bit older and a bit more pragmatic these days.  I also felt that the Councillor Terry has been really exemplary on this. It was a difficult thing to try and deal with; I think the original policy document that came out from the County Council was not very helpful. And I think, certainly, the work that we did in Scrutiny on this issue was taken on board. I think that you were chairing that one Councillor Bee and I think that has been taken on board and we should acknowledge that. So, I see this as quite a sensible step of Suffolk County Council and quite a sound proposal.  Does give us the option if it goes wrong, but lets not take a pessimistic line, that we can bring it back in.  I think we are handing it over to the people that know what they are doing and let’s see how that goes. It may lead to some dynamic improvements, changes and I think we need to be upbeat and positive about that. And I think the key thing, and that came out from Scrutiny – and that I am very happy with – is that we still have in prospect a comprehensive library service. And I think that is really to be valued, and we are not fragmenting it as we discussed at Scrutiny and that was a real concern that I had. So I shall be supporting what we are doing today.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Ereira. Councillor Finch please.

Councillor Finch [James Finch – Conservative]:

Thank you, Madam Chairman. I speak on behalf of a division that does not have any libraries at all in terms of buildings but we do have mobile libraries and those mobiles are sincerely valued by my constituents.  I heard Councillor Otton expressing concern earlier in this debate that she was worried about whether/how people were going to get books frequently enough. I have reviewed this on behalf of my constituents and I am very happy as a result of my review to find out that the home library service is continuing and therefore that service with the volunteers – the WRVS – is still available to my constituents; and on top of that I have shared this with all my parish councils and I am very confident that members of my community will be able to help those if they can get to the library service they will be able to get their books or whatever.  And I think the library service itself will be an expanding  service and I pay tribute to library, mobile library drivers; they have been promoting the new, the home mobile service. And finally, I would like to say I don’t think this is the best of a bad job, Councillor Kemp. I think this is a job well overdue; I think a good review of the library service to identify what our customers want, in other words our constituents, and I think as a result of a lot of hard work and a lot of people, I think we have come up with a very good solution; and I am very pleased to say that I am going to strongly support this motion.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Finch. Councillor Bee please.

Councillor Bee [Mark Bee – Conservative Leader]:

Thank you very much Madam Chairman very briefly I would like to thank Judy for the tremendous amount of work she has done. I know Councillor Storey has already done that  but I would like to also stand up and say that because Judy’s taken a lot of brickbats over this and has risen to the challenge very well.  And I think she has not been afraid to do that and I think it has been right that there has been the strength and the passion of feeling across Suffolk about the libraries, because the libraries do evoke, as I think it was as  Councillor Rudkin said, it is about the soul of local government. We do recognise that which is why we take it seriously and if we have stepped back from the brink, as I think Councillor Newman is quoted as having said, and if this is the new New Strategic Direction – which I don’t necessarily recognise –  what I recognise is a pragmatic, common sense approach to dealing with the challenges that we have; and the answer, Madam Chairman,  is in the title of this report ‘Library Services for the Future’: not of the past, of the future.  How you can take library services forward and actually engage and work with the community and that is what is on offer here.  We already see examples of that, the Bungay Library that Councillor Ritchie mentioned do some fantastic things in the way they involve the community.  I went to Gainsborough Road library in Ipswich a few months ago and you see the way that they are involved, and involve the community that runs Gainsbrough Road that does not have a lot of other facilities; and it shows how central and important the library facility is there.  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.  If people want them to be used for anything other than perhaps they were done in the past, and I think there is this opportunity here; and having it under this arrangement – which actually makes it arms length not detached – arms length from local government, frees library service to do just these type of things.  We could have been in debate long ago about closing libraries they could have gone by now. We haven’t; we are maintaining that network we are strengthening that network and we are preparing it for the future.  Well done, Judy and your team, and I urge members to support what we have here.


Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Bee. Councillor Grutchfield please.

Councillor Grutchfield [David Grutchfield – Liberal Democrat]:

Thank you I would like an explanation of paragraph 21 because its not just the library service; if we set up trusts properly we can save the rates 80%. If overall the County Council  was to look for savings, if we could, and set them up – I know we can’t for everything – that 80% would find a massive lot of savings.  Very quickly, I agree the childrens’, the age range of the users, of the library is important.  I have been into libraries for as long as I can remember. Some people will say it has been since 1947, but never mind, but basically the children do appreciate; that’s what we mustn’t ignore is the children’s library service as well. One of my colleagues mentioned the prison library service but one of the services that has not been used roughly 3000 people is the home library service.  We have got volunteers who go round and deliver to these things and I think it is excellent.  We also have, which has not been mentioned Madam Chairman, we have the premises of our libraries and if you look at the little section which says income, lots of the buildings are used for parties for children, old groups, OAP groups, lots of groups because its the premises that are bringing the income.  What we have got to remember is that books have, in fact, faded out.  Local newspapers are very good service because they are in local libraries but the majority of people don’t buy and the 18 -24s – we learn so much about being unemployed – they don’t buy papers now because they can’t afford it or they use the internet.  I would like to feel what we can do is use the service for these new range of things. What I would say, Judy, is ‘so far so good’. I would like more; thank you very much.

Madam Chairman: Thank you Councillor Grutchfield. And I would like to call on Councillor Richard Smith to second this proposal.

Councillor Richard Smith [Conservative]:

Madam Chairman, I have learnt a lesson today: when I earlier stood up to second the motion and reserve my right to speak, the lesson I have learnt is don’t do that again because you listened to the debate and about 8 or 10 of the points I had to make have now been made. So I’m going to be much shorter than I was, and if I am ever asked to second something again I shall do it at the earliest opportunity in full. I have two quite serious points to make. First of all, Councillor Terry asked me some while ago if I would help her on this whole libraries question and it has been a very harmonious working relationship. Indeed a wag on this side of the house referred to it as the Richard and Judy show but that really is quite wrong because it is the Judy show and I also want to pay tribute to the very hard work Judy Terry has done over the last year on this subject.  Now the second serious point is intriguingly today we have heard of services that can be provided at Suffolk’s libraries and I am looking to my dear colleague, the leader of the council the member for Beccles to tell me more about belly dancing because I think I might qualify for that (laughter in chamber).  So anyway, I don’t want to take up much time. I am convinced having been doing the work with Judy that the IPS is the right vehicle to take libraries forward.  It will have representation from library groups with wide and varied experience and it will take forward the challenges that need to be addressed to make libraries for the future.  Indeed I think this policy is one of the flagship examples of what this County Council is trying to achieve.  It’s serious about delivering a new way of delivering services and of delivering library services and this could mean new libraries, other libraries in different locations to now with a much wider service providing knowledge hubs, community hubs etc.; it will also bring in extra volunteers. It provides, I think, a stable basis for the future. I think these talks of having to bring it back in-house are wrong and unfounded.  Staff and public have helped shape this exciting future I welcome it, I wish it well and I am happy to second the recommendations.


Madam Chairman: Thank you very much Councillor Smith. I would now like to call upon Councillor David Wood as opposition spokesman.

Councillor David Wood [Liberal Democrat]:

Thank you. I don’t know Richard and Judy show, belly dancing: the mind boggles.  But no to be serious I have just found out, like your good selves, sitting here as the opposition leader as a speaker on this you can cross a lot of things out, so I have got to make sense of what I have done here. But I think 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.


As I said, it has been a long and painful process divesting the library; we saw uproar in the beginning and you were going to close libraries and it is those people that stopped them …… it’s what you said at the time –

Madam Chairman: order, order.

Two categories of libraries have now been abolished: ‘community’ and ‘county’.  The IPS for the benefit of the community in the report had the highest risk associated with it compared to the other models examined.  The reduction in business rates allowance could cause difficulty later on if the collection method for the tax changes, will it really represent saving if this occurs? IPS is over-reliant on volunteers: not only are they expected to aid the running of libraries but they are also expected to run community outreach services for those who are in towns without mobiles library stops. What if this isn’t possible?

If the grant is only guaranteed for two years, what is going to happen after that? Is there a model suggesting what is going to happen when the funding is cut yet again? What happens if the communities don’t want or can’t run their libraries? Will the council get updates of how the pilot projects are going? What is the likelihood of achieving the 5% reduction: if they don’t achieve it, will the libraries be able to continue running? Will they be indebted to other libraries who have? We do feel that it is essential that Councillors are involved in the process of monitoring the IPS and whether the taxpayers’ money is being spent efficiently and correctly. I hope that the relevant chairmans of the Scrutiny and Audit Committee will be thinking hard about this and making it part of their future work programme.  As I said, I could speak a lot longer on this but most of the points have been said. I think the points we have raised, that have been raised have got to be seriously considered by all concerned.  Thank you.

Madam Chairman: Thankyou Councillor Wood. Councillor Terry, please.

Councillor Terry:

Thank you. Madam Chairman, 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.  It was our intention to find ways in which we could work with communities to ensure that they were given a sustainable future and I have never changed my stance, um, right from the outset.  I welcome some of the comments from Councillor Clements and his support; he is absolutely right the IPS gives us an opportunity to develop the service and expand it and as Councillor Bee suggests it could even lead to more libraries being opened.  Councillor Otton, I am very disappointed that you won’t support this recommendation; mobiles are not going to disadvantaged communities we made that very clear in the cabinet report in November and people can, of course, take out 20 books at a time.  I used to read three books a week and I still think that if I were able, instead of reading council papers, I think it would still take me rather a long time to get through 20 books.  From the outset, beg your pardon, perhaps I could continue Councillor Otton.  The make up of the board there is no place for elected members; the structure of the IPS is to involve communities, there will be two Councillor observers there will be me and Kathy Gosling who will alternate and, of course, Councillors will have oversight of the budget. They will also have complete oversight of what the IPS is doing because the council retains its statutory responsibilities.  You say there is no information on the future of schools, prisons etc and Children’s Centres. There is no change, in fact we have been talking about developing the prison service library provision and also working with the library service to help them with education, and skills and employment so there is synergy right across the work we do throughout the ACS directorate.  Councillor Rudkin: I did not expect you to support this and frankly I am surprised at your comments that what you are actually saying is that libraries are in fact a social service. They are part of a social service but they are also a community service and none of that is going to change. People will still be able to access literature, information about the overall service and there will be front line staff available to assist.

Councillor Lockington: you have never made any attempt to have a constructive conversation with me, in fact we have never discussed libraries so please don’t say that you’ve been engaged in the process

Councillor Martin: I think you are a bit concerned about property; you want the library service to be comprehensive and sustainable: that is what this report is all about.  Property will be transferred as and when appropriate; each property will be dealt with on an individual basis. The main factor is not to save money.  We have to save money unfortunately as your national spokespeople say. It’s as if money grows on trees; it does not grow on trees. We have to find a way of making savings without affecting frontline services and that was a very valid point that my colleague Councillor Newman made.  It will be run as a county service; it will not be run individually because the whole purpose of putting the libraries into the IPS is that there is some cohesion and everyone works together, they learn together and they share the central services they also share the budget.

Councillor Page: you mentioned, er, I’m afraid I have written here ‘no imagination’ (Laughter in chamber) Councillor Ritchie: indeed I am very grateful to you; you have been wonderful spokesman for the people of Bungay and you again have helped us enormously in developing the way forward.

Councillor Newman: you rightly say about putting libraries on a sustainable footing but also you mention the importance of education (bell rings). I am sorry I do have a few more lines, can I have a few extra minutes?… Councillor Newman talks about education and I do have to emphasise that expressions of interest make that very important point which they wish to develop.  I could go on but I’m obviously not going to be allowed to (I’ve got 20 seconds) I would particularly like to thank Councillor Ereira and Councillor Kemp both of whom have been very supportive.  Councillor Ereira sent an email of which I am very grateful as soon as we decided that the cabinet had decided to take this forward, so if I may recommend the way forward please.

Madam Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Terry. We will now move to the vote.

If you agree with the recommendations please vote ‘yes’.

If you do not agree with the recommendations vote ‘no’.

The results are coming up on your screen. The recommendation is carried.

(End of transcript)


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