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Suffolk: Libraries’ closures ‘will pay for council overspending’

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 January 2011

Bungay Library

Bungay Library

Archant © 2011

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Suffolk’s libraries reacted with anger last night as it emerged the cutbacks would pay for overspending in other council budgets.

Suffolk County Council has said it can no longer afford to run 29 of its 44 libraries and warned they would close if communities did not come forward to take them over. The move is to make more than £2million of savings.

Bosses have said communities have until April 2013 to confirm deals to run their libraries but it has now emerged that more than £1m has to be saved in the next financial year – which will cut the existing library service by 15% and increase the pressure on local people to act.

And cutbacks to library services in 2011-12 will make only make £350,000 of new savings, according to papers going to next week’s cabinet meeting, with a further £700,000 covering an overspend on this year’s social care budgets. Further savings will be needed in 2012-13.

Last night, campaigners said the council viewed libraries as a “soft touch” and was using cuts to the service as a “get out of jail free” card.

Steve Smedley, who has begun a campaign to save Leiston Library, said: “The county council certainly seem to have got themselves into something of a financial mess and have been caught using the library budget as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

“What other examples of financial mismanagement are being covered up by cuts in libraries and other public services?

“I am sure these revelations will only serve to harden the resolve of library campaigners across Suffolk to reject the county council’s unpopular plans for cuts and closures.”

He added: “It is clear that Suffolk County Council views libraries as a soft touch.”

Josiah Meldrum, from Sustainable Bungay, a group which is campaigning to save the town’s library, said: “The council should not be robbing Peter to pay Paul when core services are under threat.

“We don’t want to see any cut in care budgets either but in the broader scheme of things we are talking about quite small amounts of money in large budgets and I would rather see cutbacks in executive salaries.”

The council has launched a consultation on the future of its libraries, which runs until April. It wants to hear from groups interested in taking over the running of their libraries and is aiming to secure deals to hand them over by April 2013.

But the council wants to make savings much sooner than that as it bids to cut £43m from next year’s overall budget. Suffolk’ libraries currently cost just under £9m a year to run.

It has been warned that the threatened libraries will close if no-one comes forward to run them. The proposals have caused anger and concern from library users, communities and leading authors.

A council spokesman said the authority could potentially overspend by £7m on social care payments in 2010-11, largely due to “growing demand for care and support for vulnerable adults”. Adult and community services need to find £12.4m of savings in 2011-12, he added.

10 comments

  • It is clear that the County Council is not serious about wanting to save the rural libraries. If they were then THEY would organise the volunteers they say they want to run the libraries. The only reason they want other groups to run these libraries is so that when it all goes wrong they will not be seen to blame. If the councillors had any spine they would resign en masse and say to the government we will not be part of destroying the public services of Suffolk.

    Report this comment

    RoyT

    Friday, January 28, 2011

  • Cut the chief's pay!

    Report this comment

    sue douglas

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

  • Lets have some answers! What of the £9m is the % for pay. What is the breakdown of staff ie library workers to managers in % terms. Lastly how many of the management staff are earning in excess of £45k per annum. There may well be some savings here!!

    Report this comment

    areboy137

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

  • Roy T is quite right - these are cuts not opportunities. Suffolk County Council is attempting to mislead people over what the community sector can do. Voluntary does NOT mean free - volunteers need to be recruited, trained, organised and managed, all of which takes time, effort and money. These proposals are at best an abdication of responsibility, at worst an attempt to isolate rural communities further by denying us access to information and knowledge. It is laughable for the council to suggest community groups or even 'councils from outside Suffolk' could run the libraries for them. How pathetic does that make SCC look? Are they saying that virtually anyone could do the job better than them! Without the necessary finance no-one can operate. In fact it is much more efficient to keep one single unified County Library Service (imagine the duplication of work otherwise) run by SCC. We do understand that things are going to get worse - cutbacks to staff pay and hours, andor use of volunteers to keep libraries open, as well as increases to council tax. But we will not tolerate SCC denying its duties leading to closures. This will be fought with every means at our disposal.

    Report this comment

    Mark W

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

  • Agree with Sue. There's also a national "Save our Libraries" day on 5th February - go there borrow as many books and use as many services as possible! http:www.cilip.org.ukget-involvedadvocacypublic-librariesPagessavelibrariesday.aspx

    Report this comment

    idlevic

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

  • Cut the chief's pay!

    Report this comment

    england1770

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

  • Perhaps someone out there can work out the figures...why not increase Council Tax as a loan back to the county from it's residents. (When things improve then we could have a reduction or no increases for a substantial period).If we are going to feel some pain,why can't it be financial rather than loss of services. If my Council Tax increased by 5% it would be about £12 a month...how much would an across the board increase generate...enough to keep the School Crossing Patrols, Day Centres, Youth Clubs etc? Perhaps the press could ask some questions of those in control of the County. I suspect that it suits the Tories to cut as much as they can out of contempt for us plebs!

    Report this comment

    Dogberry

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

  • And I see that SCC is advertising for YET ANOTHER Press Officer at around £26k a year...while at the same time making people who actually do a valuable job helping others redundant. It is clear where this Tory administration puts in priorities - not in providing services for the people of Suffolk, or support to the vulnerable, but in telling us how great they all are. They make me sick.

    Report this comment

    bettycoltrane

    Friday, January 28, 2011

  • It is clear that the County Council is not serious about wanting to save the rural libraries. If they were then THEY would organise the volunteers they say they want to run the libraries. The only reason they want other groups to run these libraries is so that when it all goes wrong they will not be seen to blame. If the councillors had any spine they would resign en masse and say to the government we will not be part of destroying the public services of Suffolk.

    Report this comment

    RoyT

    Friday, January 28, 2011

  • By how much Sue Douglas? Her entire pay packet wouldn't make a dent in the 12.4 million savings needed from Adult services. Even if you cut her pay back to what the previous Chief Executive earned, you'd still make savings of less than £30k now. They're talking about cuts in the millions. Her pay is a distraction, not the issue.

    Report this comment

    Paul Norton

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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