Tag Archives: IPS

Suffolk Libraries : Suffolk Lib Dem Library policy

In the relatively calm waters of 2013, we are in danger of forgetting quite what threat Suffolk’s libraries were under back in 2010, when Tory-appointed CEO Andrea Hill was endeavouring to institute a ‘virtual council’ and divest itself of most services in the name of her New Strategic Direction. The Conservative councillors who were happy to vote this in are still in power – until May 2nd.

Suffolk libraries at risk from SCC's New Strategic Directive!
Suffolk libraries at risk from SCC’s New Strategic Directive!

Yet 29 of our 44 libraries were under very real threat of closure (don’t take my word for it – hear it from the mouth of Cllr Terry  -Conservative Cabinet member for libraries . Her actual words are unambiguous : “the fallback position is that if we don’t get those responses, then 29 libraries do have to close.” Naysayers and amnesiacs please note)

Luckily the people of Suffolk (kickstarted by the people of Woodbridge who were signing the first petition within 2 days of the first announcement of trouble)  saw off that threat, and the IPS which is now in place is definitely the lesser of two evils. What more it might be we have yet to discover.

A while back, Suffolk Lib Dems issued the  following  policy regarding libraries. In case it is hard to find in its current position, I’m taking the opportunity to repost it :

……………………………………………………………………………

Suffolk Lib Dem Group Library policy

Suffolk Lib Dem Group recognises the immense value of libraries to the Suffolk community. Most particularly because libraries :

  • Provide materials for study to help both young and mature students – and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds;
  • Provide materials for leisure helping people relax, thus enhancing or maintaining their mental health;
  • Provide a centre for social interaction – which enhances community cohesion;
  • Provide a place for quiet study for those who don’t enjoy such facilities at home;
  • Provide a source of reference material in both physical and on-line formats;
  • Provide internet access for people who can’t afford such equipment, don’t have the space to accommodate it, have occasional need or just need help with the processes.

It is essential that

  • the above facilities should be provided
  • the provision must meet current needs and satisfy foreseeable trends
  • the business structure should be stable and finance should be certain
  • accommodation should be conveniently located for existing population centres, thinking particularly of those that are disadvantaged
  • adequate public transport and car parking facilities should be available.
  • accommodation should attract users, being clean, comfortable and accessible
  • mobile libraries should be provided and used effectively to ensure a service in low population density rural areas
  • staff should be friendly, welcoming and willing to help new users of any age, not just the long established library buffs.

……………………………………………………………………………

Woodbridge Library needs Friends!

Save Woodbridge Library - and all the others in Suffolk. We love them and use them
Save Woodbridge Library – and all the others in Suffolk. We love them and use them

After huge protest from Suffolk residents of all ages and backgrounds,  kickstarted by the Lib Dem councillors and the library-loving residents of  Woodbridge, Suffolk County Council’s administration backed down on some of their more worrying  threats. Instead it has outsourced  the Library organisation into an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community.  This means that the Suffolk Library system has become a member-based organisation  of individual libraries.

Under these new proposals there are no planned closures for Libraries in the County – which is  a (at least  temporary) relief.  However, each of the Libraries will be tasked to make 5% savings on top the savings that are already embedded in the proposals.  This may mean an increase in volunteers, more fund-raising events, or changing suppliers for maintenance contracts. Funding is only guaranteed  by SCC for the first two years. Additionally, those libraries that do not have community groups are run by the IPS and have considerably less autonomy, because they have no representation on the board.
This is becoming a problem in Woodbridge.

Because Woodbridge Library is  run by the IPS , decision-making occurs without any local involvement . A notable example is the matter of the moving in of Suffolk Coastal District services to the Woodbridge Library premises without consultation or consideration of local wishes or requirements.  All moneys earned by the Library go back to the IPS, rather than being spent at the discretion of  us locals.  In the case of the Tourist Information point, neither Woodbridge Library or the residents of Woodbridge were even consulted as to the amount of rent SCDC should be paying(!).  Indeed the whole issue appears to have been discussed between officers without any input from or reference to elected local councillors or the Library itself.

In this case Suffolk Coastal district council wished to save money, and didn’t specifically have  Woodbridge interests at heart. There are rumours that they were offering as low as £2000 per annum rent for the ir occupancy of part of the library – and the Library’s consequent reduction of income-generating space.  Is it best value? If they don’t disclose we cannot know.  A Friends group would help Woodbridge to ensure it gets best value from and for its Library space!

It is now time to set up a Friends of Woodbridge Library group to allow the people of Woodbridge – and the surrounding district – a greater degree of control.

Please contact Woodbridge Library if you want to be part of this -we’d love it if you did! 

Update: it looks like the first meeting will be in the afternoon, 16 March

Whats happening at SCC: town council report January 2012

This month’s report deals mainly with the future of Suffolk Libraries, but also mentions the official appointment of the new Chief Executive, potential changes to Suffolk’s schools admissions policies, the forthcoming Budget for 2012-13 and  the dangers of heavy objects being thrown onto the A12/A14:

Happy New Year!

Chief Executive   Having been officially confirmed in her post at full council, Deborah Cadman began her role as Chief Executive in the last week of December. I look forward to working with her. One of her first acts has been to address the issue of long-term ‘interim directors’ at the top of the council. As both the Directors of Children and Young People and Adult and Community Services are interim appointments, a recruitment process is now under way to appoint permanent postholders on fixed salaries.

Libraries  Full Council also covered the administration’s decision to change the structure of the Libraries so that the current library provision will be transferred  to an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community. This means that local libraries will be run by local “community groups”, who may be voting members of the IPS.  The IPS, as the overarching organisation, will be run by an elected board, responsible for managing the grant funding from the Council.  Local libraries are expected to make 5% of savings through a number of means – IT provision, maintenance contracts, use of volunteers and fundraising. 

The opposition are concerned that there are still many issues which remain unanswered. The future of the Libraries is supposedly secure for 10 years yet the funding is only guaranteed for two years. There are continuing uncertainties about the fate of the smaller libraries. There is also concern about over- reliance on volunteers – not only to run the Libraries but also the home library service, which will no doubt see an increase in use after the reduction of the mobile library service.

You can read further details about my concerns  in my blog, here.  Full details of the Council papers,  are here  

2012-2013 Budget  January’s Cabinet will take place on the 24th of January at 11am in Mildenhall at the Forest Heath District Council Offices. Can I remind you that members of the public are welcome both as spectators and  to ask pre-booked questions in the usual way.

This is a very important Cabinet meeting as it is the first real look at the budget papers, which provide greater detail on what the Council is intending to do for the next financial year.    The final vote on the budget for 2012/13 will   take place at the  next Full Council meeting (9th of February). 

A12/A14 – incidents involving objects being thrown from bridges   There have been a number of  occasionss on the A12/A14 where objects have been thrown from bridges onto traffic below.  This started with an incident in Essex but seems to have spread to south Suffolk as a copycat activity.

SCC, the Police, Fire and Rescue and partners are extremely concerned and taking all possible action to stop these extremely dangerous and irresponsible happenings.  A senior detective has been appointed to lead a team dedicated to catching the individual(s) responsible.

We need to ensure that everybody knows that if they do see any suspicious activity on or near a road bridge,  they must call 999.

Winter – Are you prepared?  SCC is finally expecting colder weather. We may at last get use from those grit bins!

Admissions to Suffolk schools in 2013/14  Suffolk County Council has launched a consultation about their policies for admission to schools next year. It includes the admissions policy for community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, foundation/trust schools academies and free schools in Suffolk. As Farlingaye has recently become an academy, and there is a proposal that a new Transcendental Meditation Free School should start locally, this may well be of interest to many of us.

I am particularly keen that SCCs  policy of free school transport only to the nearest catchment school is addressed if it turns out that the nearest catchment school is, eg,  a Transcendental Meditation free school. You can find the consultation here  

Kesgrave by-election: purdah Due to the unexpected death of John Klaschka, Councillor for Kesgrave and Rushmere, there will be a district and county council by-election on 9th February.  As the purdah period is upon us, I am not now able to make any commitments as regards my locality budget till after 9 February