Distribute that middle! Losing Suffolk libraries through a logical fallacy

If you thought an ‘undistributed middle’ had something to do with eating too much Christmas pud, think again. In Suffolk its the administration’s pitiful excuse for  reducing  our our loved, valued, and needed library services.

SCC’s consultation paper : Have your say on the future of Suffolk’s libraries was launched last week.  The first page of this document sets the framework for you ‘having your say’. It is titled: Services to be delivered differently in the future‘  and the first paragraph is  a whole lot of guff about iPods, e-books and Twitter – just to reinforce the fact that we no longer really need books on bookshelves. And just as well…

Why?  The document tells us that:

“With major changes affecting the country’s economy, and government’s aim to cut the national budget deficit over the coming years, Suffolk County Council must reduce its funding to libraries by at least 30% over three years.”

Eh? Did I miss something? This is a perfect example of a logical fallacy : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

Another  example of this  flaw in argument can be seen in the following:

“Dollar bills are green, trees are green, so money must grow on trees.”

Yes,  Mr Pembroke, there are major changes in the country’s economy.

Yes, the government wants to  cut the national budget deficit over three years.


(And  did you know that The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 makes the provision of ‘a comprehensive and efficient’ public library service a statutory requirement?)

As usual, when justifying their divestments and cuts, SCC  points to cuts in central government grants.  Again, this document fails to mention  that the government grant which is  being cut (by 26% over 4 years, not 30% over 3)  forms only part of SCC’s income. The rest of which is staying the same, or rising. In other words, SCC  does not have to impose of cuts to the Suffolk library service  of over 30% over 3 years at all!

Rather,  it means is that SCC  sees libraries as a ‘soft’ target. In fact, SCC has taken three-quarters of a million pounds away from library funding this year to pay for a hole in care finances already. Yet there has been no proposed reduction whatsoever to Suffolk’s multi-million pound  road maintenance budget. Lorries before learning!

We all know that some cuts, some pain IS going to be unavoidable – but there are different ways of targeting them. For example, you can discover what your residents want.

Norfolk is –  like Suffolk – run by a Tory administration. It is – like Suffolk – rural, and thinly populated in many places.  So how is it managing the problems of less funding? Has  Norfolk  told people that its too expensive to run frontline services? No! Instead of insisting on a mad, undemocratic, ideologically motivated  New Strategic Direction , and deciding on outcomes before consultation with its population,  Norfolk has held a ‘Big Conversation’ – and established what  its residents’ priorities are! After all it is their council tax and their services!

Big Conversations? You might object to the terminology – you can’t fault the way their minds were working.  You can read more about Norfolk’s so much more ‘grown up’ and democratic process  here

Suffolk’s embarrassingly autocratic  library ‘consultation’ will continue  until 30 April. As ever, I urge you to have your say.  I warn you – just as in the case of Suffolk’s Care Homes – ‘having your say’ on the future of Suffolk’s libraries doesn’t mean the administration is allowing you any opportunity to say their idea is bad, and you want no part of it.

Oh no – all this consultation gives you is a chance  to explain your idea for running your divested library.   For example, Question 4 is:  “How will your idea  or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%”

Am I the only person who  thinks this is frankly ludicrous when we remember the ‘New Strategic Direction’ is the brainchild of an exceptionally highly paid Chief Executive, who only recently flatly refused to countenance the idea of a voluntary 10% pay cut for herself?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-12232070

SCC consultation document writers may be bad with words but they really are expert at the “when did you stop beating your wife”-type question.

Woodbridge library is ‘safe’:  that is, it will remain one of the 15  ‘County Libraries‘  free from divestment – unless someone really really wants to take it over.   However the other 29  (now designated Community) libraries, including Wickham Market,  Framlingham, Debenham, Kesgrave, Leiston, Oulton Broad and Southwold  are up for divestment – that is, being taken over by community groups.  At the bottom of this page is a little  notice in quiet print:

“If the response to this consultation is disappointing, and the county council does not receive viable proposals and ideas from people, groups, businesses and other interested parties for ways to run community libraries, we propose that funding will stop from 2012.

Not that your arms are being twisted!

You may – whether or not your  own library is on the list – feel like filling in the consultation document. You may, on the other hand feel like filling in one of the e-petitions that are proliferating on the Council’s  brand spanking new petition site:


You might also write to your local paper, councillor or MP. Or all of these. Good luck!

this does not mean that there is any need or requirement for ‘scc to reduce its funding to libraries by at least 30% over three years

5 thoughts on “Distribute that middle! Losing Suffolk libraries through a logical fallacy”

  1. Great post. It is possible to complete the “consultation” by ignoring the invitation to participate in the cuts, and saying what you really think of the whole charade. I have just done it. Doubt they will ring me to discuss my ideas.

  2. This is an interesting article but fails to note that despite Norfolk CC’s ‘Big Conversation’, their Youth and Connexions service amongst many others have been decimated. How many of the young people of Norfolk were consulted? Few I suspect and of those, even fewer are likely to have been users of that service.
    Had Suffolk CC consulted me about which cuts to our public services I would prefer I would have said none, though my preference would have been invalid as there wouldn’t have been ‘close tax loopholes for multimillionaires’ as an option.
    Nonetheless it’s good to see that the are some LibDems with independent thought. Or is it that there are local gov’t elections pending?

  3. @ Steve Catchpole: you’ve given a rather muddled set of comments here, but I’m happy to answer:

    1 If you’ve read my blog more than the once you will recognise that one of my underlying concerns is the democratic deficit that exists in Suffolk. You may disagree with the answers but at least Norfolk consulted with their population and adjusted their cuts to what the population wanted. (For example, after consultation they decided to retain the school crossing patrols we are losing) Here’s a link to the concerns that were raised You may not like the outcomes, but that’s democracy! And its a lot better than the autocratic diktat of Suffolk’s New Strategic Direction!

    2. Cuts in general. It’s all a little more than ‘close tax loopholes for multimillionaires’ (a policy that hasn’t occurred any time in the last 13 years, has it?). It was less than a year ago that then Chancellor Alistair Darling and Liam Byrne conceded that there would need to be cut worse than Margaret Thatcher this year. We need to acknowledge the impact of the hideous ‘free market’ bank deregulation of the last government that has underpinned our country’s share in the world catastrophe. And that longtime Chancellor and PM Gordon Brown was the man in the driving seat. So , like it or not, remember or forget, the reality is all main parties have agreed this necessity.

    But lets pass over past tragedies. Norfolk and Suffolk are both bearing the brunt of a Government policy that is rooted in many poor calls over past decades but which our residents now have to cope with! To consult directly with them on how best to deal with this would seem to be both practical and democratic!
    3. Thank you for your compliment on my independent thought.
    You’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of Lib Dems who think independently – because we are not forced into those narrow-minded ‘right’ and ‘left’ silo mindsets that can often be a problem with membership of the other two main parties. This is why we were out on the streets last October in Suffolk Coastal, posting 23,000 leaflets protesting against Suffolk’s undemocratic autocracy through doors and asking for signatures to a petition asking for greater demicracy to underpin proposed changes. We were the only political party making any kind of effort to alert Suffolk residents of all political hue to this situation: sadly neither of the other main parties wanted to raise the matter at all. I can only assume this was for political reasons!

    Oh, and by the way, you needn’t worry about electioneering! Me, I don’t need to stand for election for another couple of years plus.

    But maybe that this is the big difference between us Lib Dems and some representatives of other parties. We genuinely try to do the best for the people we represent at all times!

  4. Since childhood i’ve been a voracious reader; unfortunately 30 years ago i was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I now use a powerchair which means that i’m restricted in the shops that I can get into so i was delighted that Debenham Resource Centre is accessible to me. It is 1 of only 2 places in Debenham that i can get into which is much appreciated. Our very young granddaughter, from New York, visited last year and she was so happy that I could get a book for her. And it is delightful to see so many children making friends with books. These days i usually borrow ‘spoken word’ books because these days i cannot hold a book to read, they’re just too heavy. i would be very upset if the centre closed because there are so few oportunities open to me and going to town would be so tiring for me and i’m not sure just how far the chair would take me!
    I’m sure that there are others in a similar situation albeit for a different reason.

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