Suffolk libraries facing major funding cuts

Alison Wheeler and Tony Brown.

Alison Wheeler and Tony Brown. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s libraries are facing budget cuts of more than 11% over the next two years – but their chairman has pledged that no branches will be closed.

However county councillors have been warned that the service could see significant reductions in what it can do beyond 2017 as the cuts take hold.

Suffolk Libraries chairman Tony Brown told a meeting of the county’s scrutiny committee looking at potential budget cuts that the service had not agreed to cuts of £350,000 over each of the next two years.

And he warned that such reductions would impact on its services.

He said: “Suffolk Libraries is committed to ensuring no library branches will close during the lifetime of our current contract.

“With the support of our Board, staff, community groups and customers, Suffolk Libraries has worked hard and successfully over the past three years to ensure the organisation is operating efficiently and to protect and develop what is regarded as a ‘gold standard’ service of which we are all rightly proud.

“We are a stronger, more flexible organisation than we were and we will use this strength and the relationships we have developed to respond to this challenge, to continue to innovate and to seek ways in which to maintain the sustainability of the service.”

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Alison Wheeler, General Manager, Suffolk Libraries, said: “These are proposals and we are hoping soon to reach agreement, working constructively with the Council, as we have done in the past.

“We are in discussion about what we can do, and how we might move forward over the next two years and beyond. It is clear that the success of our model of service delivery has helped to protect Suffolk Libraries from even more threatening budget cuts at this time.”

Suffolk Libraries became a separate organisation from the county council in 2012 – although it does rely on the county for its funding.

Ms Wheeler added: “We do not expect to have to make any major changes in the coming year. We had already planned to deliver the final part of the 30% efficiency savings which are set out in our original contract.

“We will ensure that any savings we need to make for the next financial year (2016/17) will not affect the integrity of Suffolk’s library service.”

However the outlook beyond then was less certain.

Ms Wheeler said: “Looking further ahead to 2017/18 we recognise that the proposed reductions will be challenging and may involve changes to the way some library services are delivered.

“Suffolk County Council has to indicate in what areas of service it expects any adjustments to be made. We have not agreed any changes at this stage, and the council is committed to public consultation on any significant changes they propose.”

The scrutiny committee spent all day looking at proposals for the county’s budget next year – although the actual amount the authority will have will not be known until the government announces its settlement for each council next month.

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