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All Suffolk libraries safe for now – but struggling with more spending cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:29 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:29 15 February 2017

Alison Wheeler from Suffolk Libraries

Alison Wheeler from Suffolk Libraries

Archant

All Suffolk’s 44 libraries should be able to stay open despite a cut in support from the county council, senior staff have said.

But they do face tough choices and could have to look at new ways of earning money to make up for the loss of £200,000 from its council grant.

The cut has put more pressure on the service, but Suffolk Libraries’s chief executive Alison Wheeler said the current network of branches was not under threat at present.

The plight of the library service was highlighted by the opposition Labour group at the county council following last week’s budget vote at county council.

Labour libraries’ spokeswoman Mandy Gaylard said: “When I became a Councillor in 2013, I promised myself that I would continue the fight to keep Libraries open.

“Every year, the Conservatives have cut the Library service and refused responsibility for any of the consequences.

“Every year, Suffolk Libraries have struggled as a result. This cut goes too far.”

Ms Wheeler said that while the grant cut was challenging, the staff would be working out how to make it work for users.

She said: “Now the final decision has been made we will be reviewing how best to run the library service for less money next year and creating a sustainable future for the county’s library service.

“We will be doing everything we can to minimise any reduction in jobs and impact on library services. At this stage, this reduction will not result in the closure of any library or stopping the mobile library service.”

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board, said: “Negotiations and discussions between Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries have been continuing over the past year.

“Though less than originally proposed, we have reluctantly agreed to accept the £200,000 reduction for 2017/18.

“In our discussions with the council we have made it clear that we have reached a point at which we cannot make further efficiency savings so a reduction of this level is going to be challenging.”

Suffolk Libraries became an independent Industrial Provident Society in 2012 to run the service at “arms length” from the county council in a bid to cut costs and keep the network open.

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