The biggest of the pilot schemes for a divested Suffolk library service, a co-operative in Ipswich, has collapsed.
The news, first revealed by James Hargrave on his blog, was confirmed in an email to library supporters in Ipswich. It reads:
After several months of hard work we have decided that the Ipswich Libraries Co-operative proposal did not fit with the ambitions of the Ipswich County Library and that of the Gainsborough Community Library. With the best intentions of the users and staff in mind it is felt that an independent activity would be more able to meet their needs.
Each of the Ipswich libraries will now be working directly with the IPS until it is clear what form of governance for each library will best work within the new set-up. We will of course let you know when we have made alternative plans, please do get in touch if you would like more information or would like to offer your assistance. We understand that this may have caused inconvenience but we believe that the decision will lead to a better future.
This will be a blow to the County Council which had established a number of pilot schemes to test various approaches to local management of libraries under a county-wide Industrial and Provident Society.
The IPS itself is looking increasingly fragile, under the chairmanship of Clive Fox whose library manager in Aldeburgh, another of the pilots, has resigned over the plans there.
Another pilot scheme, the cluster of Debenham, Eye and Stradbroke, has yet to make much progress because of the range and complexity of property issues to be settled first.
The County Council has always know that the IPS to run the service under contract to the council was the riskiest of the three options it considered.
As the risk analysis considered by the council said, the deciding factors between a continued in house service and the IPS were, “likely to be the risk appetite of the County Council and the level of commitment to community governance”.
On both counts they seem to have called it wrongly. And there have been scant signs yet of leadership from the IPS. There are whispers that contingency plans are being prepared.