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Campaign for libraries enters new phase

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet yesterday accepted the new route forward for Suffolk Libraries. It certainly appears to be more open and flexible and there were soothing words at the meeting.

James Hargrave was there and in his excellent post says:

Whilst I don’t think it is time to pop the champagne there are signs emerging that some more trust might emerge between the Council and campaigners and that at least we can start to talk to each other.

Closure threat to Suffolk libraries returns, and dumping rubbish may cost up to £12 for some

A week after Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member responsible for libraries, Judy Terry, promised that libraries were saved, she turned on her heels yesterday and rejected a call to give an assurance that no libraries would be closed before 2013.

At a, by all accounts, chaotic meeting of the county council is became clear that 20 libraries remained under threat if they were not taken over by communities.

This is very much the position that was overwhelmingly rejected in a consultation where 3,839 people responded but only 102 supported the idea of community run libraries. The gun is still pointing at the heads of communities which are being told, take-over your library or it will be closed.

Ms Terry told the council that there were many expressions of interest in running these libraries, but she did not say how many of them also said they wanted the library to be run by the county.

I was not at the meeting, but  library campaigners James Hargrave and Sue Hall have written accounts. Paul Geater, the Archant newspapers local government correspondent in Ipswich, understandably chose to report what James Hargrave, who presented petitions to save libraries containing 35,000 names, said at greater length than the councillors. James also tweeted the meeting (see my previous post).

It was, from what I have heard, a meeting that would be impossible to report in any way which would be intelligible to readers of the East Anglian Daily Times.

The goodwill that was given to the new leader of the council, Mark Bee, seems to be evaporating fast. He promised to listen and to have a conversation with the people. On yesterday’s showing he does not appear to have the authority to ensure the councillors have a reasonable conversation among themselves.

But from what sense I can make of the voting figures, it seems that some of the 55-strong ruling conservative group abstained. The tiny Labour group of four put forward a motion that no libraries should close before 2013. How the Greens and Lib Dems (15 seats betwen them) voted/abstained I have not been able to discover.

And Mark Bee’s reputation will not be enhanced by a report in the EADT that taking rubbish to recycling centres is likely to become a postcode lottery which some people paying between £3 and £12 to dump rubbish while others will be able to do so free at county run centres that remain open.

He had delayed planned closures to seek alternatives. Now it looks as it any alternatives will be extremely unpopular. Mark Bee has had a very short honeymoon, since taking over from Jeremy Pembroke. And the credit he has been given for pronouncing the end of the New Strategic Direction (virtual council) policy and removing chief executive Andrea Hill is short lived.

It is looking as if those Conservative councillors who were saying privately, after the NSD was scrapped, that nothing had really changed were right.


@onlygeek tweets from Suffolk County Council debate on libraries

@onlygeek is a library campaigner from Stradbroke who at the start of the meeting presented the petitions of 35,000 people who want to keep all the county’s libraries. These are his tweets on the amendment to ensure no libraries closed before 2013 moved by the Labour opposition.

After the meeting he tweeted:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91556911606022144″]

He will be posting on his blog later. This is how he saw the meeting from the start.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91529927966474242″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91530198574563329″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91530430523768832″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91530687940804608″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91530839082545153″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91531347516063744″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91531535588655104″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91531816363769856″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91532088347598848″]

Councillor Spicer is Conservative for Blackbourn.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91540103062749184″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91540274911789056″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91532322779836416″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91532489092366339″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91532736220770304″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91532927510396929″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91533263193120768″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91533500095795202″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91534116478128128″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91534160325382144″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91534350818099201″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91534783447965696″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91535211678019585″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91535420394971138″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91535420394971138″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Meadowitch/status/91535453169266688″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91535657981313024″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91535922109235200″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91536192583122945″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91536558401925121″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91536899101040640″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91537992308625409″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91538159271297025″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91538332235988992″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91538664911421440″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91538971036893184″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91539489717092352″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91539489717092352″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91539500848787456″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91539947588304896″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91540103062749184″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91540274911789056″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91541392865771521″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91541690216751104″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91542080081494016″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/CroPage/status/91542147479773184″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91542666369699840″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91543325575888897″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91543531268743168″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91543849142452224″]

Richard Kemp is the Indepenent councillor for Melford.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91544181167759360″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91544456083419136″]

That looks like Conservative abstentions.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91544673746829312″]

This is getting toally confusing.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Meadowitch/status/91545873418428416″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91546067824410624″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/Meadowitch/status/91546518905040896″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/andrewga/status/91547589320773632″]















Twitter from a council meeting

Evidence that at least one councilor was following @onlygeek as he live tweeted reports of this afternoon’s Suffolk County Council. A couple of minutes after he sent this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91517642338344961″]

@bryony1963 (Bryony Rudkin, deputy leader of the Labour group) tweeted this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/bryony1963/status/91519000873410560″]

Ever gallant @onlygeek responded:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/onlygeek/status/91522256076947456″]

And back came this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/bryony1963/status/91522481357205505″]

@cropage is Caroline Page a Lib Dem councillor

@onlygeek for all his tweets



Fewer than three in a hundred supported Suffolk library plans

Fewer than three in a hundred people responding to Suffolk County Council’s libraries consultation supported the idea that they should be run by communities.

This is an extraordinary figure given that the questions asked were designed to elicit ideas for local management of libraries.

Out of 3,839 people responding, online or by completing paper forms, 3,099 (four out of five) simply stated they wanted libraries to continue to be run as they are by the county council.

Of the remaining 794 responses most suggested savings or fund raising ideas for the existing service.

Only 102 supported community groups: 2.6% of responses.

Yet the report to the council cabinet says (my emphasis):

There is some support for in-house delivery from library users and community groups.

This attempt to disguise the extent of opposition to the council’s plans (there is also a misleading chart in the documents) does not fill me with confidence about the way the the options being put forward will be evaluated.

James Hargrave has analysed the proposals being submitted to the council’s cabinet next week. He finds things are more complicated than last week’s “all libraries saved” headlines.

Links to documents also from James:

Suffolk’s vision for the future of libraries can be seen in the comprehensive 155 page document 2011 Review of Library Services (PDF 2.62Mb).

Their immediate plans can be seen in the Cabinet Papers for the 19th July meeting:

Library Service for the Future (DOC 111Kb)

Appendix 1: Consultation Results (DOC 113Kb)

Appendix 2: Options for Structural Model for Library Services (DOC 61Kb)

Appendix 3: Mobile Libraries, At Home Service and Community Outreach (DOC 78Kb)

Appendix 4: Statutory Duties (DOC 54Kb)


Your loo or your library?

A Suffolk village is asking if it should close the public toilets to help meet the costs of maintaining services, including the library, which are being funding cuts by the county council.

Debenham parish council is consulting the 2,000 people who live there on whether the toilets should be closed, permanently or for a time, to release funds for other services, deemed essential.

The parish council says county council spending cuts are likely to have serious consequences for our village in possibly reducing key services that we currently enjoy.

Consultation forms are being distributed to every household and responses are also being collected through the website.

I live in Debenham (declaration of interest) and our council is faced with a dilemma. Its council tax precept is already considerably higher than the surrounding surrounding parishes and it is testing the views of the electorate. It has not given a ultimatum quite so stark as my headline might suggest.

All the comments posted on the village website so far are in favour or retaining public toilets in Debenham, which some describe as a small town, rather than as a village. We have a good selection of shops as well as the library, secondary and prinary school, and leisure centre.

A poll on the website which has had 50 responses so far of which 73% are against the toilets being closed. Of the remainder 19% are in favour of closure and 7% for temporary closure.

Headlines in Suffolk this week have said libraries are safe, but the problem has not gone away. A 30% cut in county funding is still planned. The preferred option to be discussed by the Cabinet next week includes this:

Local independent providers may be local town, parish or district councils, or community organisations. They would be sub- commissioned and supported by the organisation through an agreement – a type of ‘sub-contract’

The county’s scrutiny committee has looked at the issue and is recommending that “any claims on secondary [double] taxation from Parish, Town, District or Borough Councils be carried out on an equitable basis across Suffolk.

It is difficult to reconcile this recommendation with the suggestion that some parish councils should contribute to libraries and other services being cut by the county.

The introduction to the consultation on the Debenham village web site says::

You will no doubt be aware of the various cost reductions and savings which the Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council are seeking to achieve as part of their plans to reduce their budget.

This is likely to have serious consequences for our village in possibly reducing key services that we currently enjoy.

Your Parish Council is concerned that this will place greater onus on the village to fund elements previously funded by the Suffolk County Council. With this in mind the Parish Council is reviewing its current expenditure to ascertain if there are any areas where cost savings can be made that would assist in funding such services should this become necessary. Current areas of concern include but are not restricted to, the Library/ Resource Centre and the Youth Club/High Suffolk Centre.

The public toilets have been subject to review by the Parish Council as a possible area of cost saving. The cost per year of the public toilets accounts for approximately 15% of the Parish precept and, whilst desirable to have, could be closed either permanently or on a temporary basis to release funds for other deemed essential services to the village.

Suffolk press release on future of libraries

Here is the press release issued today, July 7, in full with notes.

Libraries saved in major Suffolk-wide shake up

Public consultation shapes the way ahead

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will this month be asked to approve a vision and model for the future of library services in Suffolk – which would retain the library network and put it on a strong and sustainable footing for the future.

Following a four-month public consultation in which 5000 people expressed their views, cabinet will be recommended1 to support a structure that would see libraries transferred into a central organisation.

The structure of such an organisation is to be subject to a best value evaluation, following which a report will be presented to cabinet in November on the best operating model. It would manage the libraries budget and be designed to support libraries with services such as the countywide book network, employing staff, training and developing outreach services such as taking books into communities and bringing people to their nearest library.

In the meantime, the council will be working to deliver a number of partnership pilots with town or parish councils, community or staff groups keen on running a library – providing them with the flexibility, funding and support to make it a success. Given that a wide range of groups have come forward with proposals to run their own libraries, it is hoped that the pilots will act as a model elsewhere. Community involvement is critical to the success of the vision throughout Suffolk and the council will work with other groups to develop their business plans.

Councillor Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder responsible for libraries, thanked everyone who had taken the time to work with the council. She said:

“What has been fundamental for us is the need to take account of the views of Suffolk people and we have listened. This is a decision that will affect us all so it’s important we are all part of it.

“Many of the ideas and principles within the proposal have come from communities themselves. Building on libraries as community hubs, supporting outreach work and enabling pilot projects to flourish were all things people told us they wanted.

“Most important of all was not closing any of Suffolk’s libraries. We feel the proposals being put forward strike the right balance between protecting much-loved council services whilst finding necessary and unavoidable financial savings. The proposals in fact put Suffolk’s libraries on a more sustainable footing for the future – something we can all agree is needed.

“So many people told us that libraries should be community hubs for everyone but especially young people, vulnerable and older people. We absolutely support this and will now work to make sure that ambition becomes a reality.”

The changes to Suffolk’s library services will mean the council is able to save 30% of its libraries budget over three years (2011/12 – 2013/14) whilst keeping the county’s libraries open. Suffolk County Council would retain its role and responsibilities as the statutory library authority for the county.

At the meeting, cabinet will also be asked to approve a new public consultation on how mobile library services can be restructured to retain the service and make necessary savings. A proposal to change the frequency of mobile visits from fortnightly to monthly – bringing Suffolk in line with its county neighbours – will be put to the public. Absolutely no decision will be made on mobile libraries until after the views expressed during the public consultation have been taken into account.

Commenting on mobile libraries, Cllr Terry said:

“I do not want anyone to jump to any conclusions on mobile libraries. The review has demonstrated to us that there could be a more efficient way of running the service in order to keep it going – so we’re going to explore those issues via an open public consultation. No decisions will be made until we’ve taken those views into account.”

ENDSNotes to editors:

1) Suffolk County Council’s cabinet will be recommended to:

  • Note the responses to the public consultation on library services
  • Adopt the proposed Vision for the Future of Suffolk Libraries
  • Adopt the proposed access model for library services
  • Authorise a best value evaluation of the proposed structural model options
  • Agree to undertake a public consultation on the proposed changes to the mobile library service
  • Agree to pilot the running of some local libraries with specific groups that have expressed an interest in working in partnership with the county council
  • Agree to receive a further report on 8 November evaluating the proposed structural model
    options and the outcomes from the public consultation on mobile libraries.


2) A best value evaluation will be conducted to investigate which of the following models would provide the best value for the proposed countywide support body:

  • An in-house county council business unit – a similar model to the existing Schools Library Service
  • An external but wholly-county council owned company or enterprise
  • An independent company or enterprise managed by Suffolk County Council through contractual arrangements.

Option two and three present opportunities for members of the public to be more influential in decision making – for example being members of boards. No decisions have yet been made – these will take place, in public, in November 2011.

Cabinet will meet at Endeavour House on 19 July 2011 at 11:00am.

The libraries consultation was run from Tuesday 18 January 2011 until Saturday 30 April 2011.

The 2011 Review of Library Services and the full cabinet papers are available on the county council’s website: www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesfeedback


Disfunctional government: local and national

Caroline Page, the Lib Dem Suffolk County Councillor for Woodbridge, chronicles the chaos surround the handling of a petition to reinstate the eXplore card which provided cut-rate transport for young people.

And at the national level, Polly Curtis, in the Guardian, writes about a select committee report shich says there is no guarantee that the £50million savings from scrapping the Audit Commission are not guaranteed but that redundancy costs will be between £40m and £105m.

Suffolk’s 44 libraries safe, but three options for future

Three options for Suffolk libraries will be put forward later this month, Judy Terry the county council’s cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, has told BBC Radio Suffolk and the East Anglian Daily Times.

None of the county 44 libraries will close, she said.

The proposals:

  1. An in-house business unit similar to the Schools Library Service.
  2. An external, but wholly council owned company.
  3. An independent company managed by the county through contractual arrangements.

Blogger James Hargrave has responded, saying:

… the biggest concern must be the budget for whatever the governance structure you can’t run any service well without enough money and the level of cuts proposed still seems to be the 30% that we started originally with. The only change here is at first this was at least 30% possibly more but now looks to be no more than 30%. This is still a huge cut, especially for a service that is already one of the worst funded in the country.