Further pledges to keep Suffolk’s libraries open

Another pledge that libraries across Suffolk would remain open was made this afternoon as the county council's cabinet decided to go ahead with the next phase of reforming the service.

The cabinet today voted to adopt the report on the future of the county's library services – and to decide on a new structure for the service at its meeting November.

One of three structures will be adopted:

• An in-house business unit similar to the Schools Library Service.

• An external, but wholly council-owned, company.

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• An independent company managed by the county through contractual arrangements.

County councillor with responsibility for libraries Judy Terry said the service had undergone significant changes over the last few years, but the council was determined to maintain the network.

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Yesterday's cabinet meeting follows in the wake of the controversy over divestment plans that could have seen libraries in Bungay, Southwold, Kessingland, Oulton Broad, Stradbroke, Eye and Brandon close to try to save 30pc from the county council's library service budget.

Mrs Terry said: 'The number of book loans has fallen by almost a third over recent years, but libraries now offer many other services and have become community hubs.

'We know how important they are and are determined to maintain the network.'

Before the debate there were a number of questions for Mrs Terry from members of the public.

Sylvia Knights, from the Save Bungay library group, said the consultation had shown that 80pc of people who replied had wanted the library service to continue to be run by the county council as it is at present.

Mrs Terry said the county had three options under consideration. One was an in-house business and at this stage none of the options was being preferred over any of the others.

The cabinet voted unanimously to accept the report.

Although there will be further debates at the end of the year, it is expected that the new structure will be in place by April next year when some libraries will have their structures changed as part of a pilot scheme.

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