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Reassurances sought over Suffolk County Council library organisation

PUBLISHED: 11:54 01 November 2011

Love Our Library portest at Eye Library which has been threatened with closure. Hartismere High School pupil Grace Fraser (R) helping to collect signatures with Bernard Harrison and Vicky Uff.

Love Our Library portest at Eye Library which has been threatened with closure. Hartismere High School pupil Grace Fraser (R) helping to collect signatures with Bernard Harrison and Vicky Uff.

Archant © 2011

Plans for a new slim line and cost-effective organisation to help with the running of Suffolk’s libraries have been welcomed by a library campaigner, though not without some reservations over costs.

Eye mayor Felix Williams, a member of the community group looking to take over Eye Library, siad he needed to know if the new Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) set up by Suffolk County Council would be able to cover library staff costs as this would be the biggest outlay faced by Mr Williams’ community group.

He added: “It is still a bit up in the air which bits we will run. Things like staff, will the IPS run them, because staffing costs are a significant proportion of the total cost of running a library.”

The Eye group has teamed up with other voluntary groups in Stradbroke and Debenham to take over the libraries in their respective areas and the plan is to move Eye library from its current home in Buckshorn Lane to the former Citizens Advice Bureau premises in Cross Street in time for a pilot project in April 2012.

In October, county councillor Guy McGregor, representing Hoxne and Eye, told an Eye Town Council meeting the county council was prepared to pay £3,500 towards the long-term maintenance of the new building, though Mr Williams warned this would not be enough to cover the total cost.

“Where is the shortfall going to come from? The library service? This is what we need to thrash out with the county council. We need to submit a costing budget to them and to go through the budget line-by-line to work out how much it will cost,” Mr Williams added.

Councillors are set to decide whether to go ahead with the IPS scheme next week and then in December.

The IPS would be working with, but independent from, the county council to support the county’s library network and would hold charitable status, be able to benefit from an 80pc reduction in property rates and apply for external funding.

It would predominantly be funded by a grant from the county council, and use its resources to provide central support to all of Suffolk’s existing and future libraries.

The new model would cost a maximum of £652,000 to set up but would be 27.6pc cheaper to run than the current arrangement.

It would mean library services in Suffolk would cost £6.487m a year, as opposed to their £8.961m running cost in 2010/11, without any library closures.

Much of the savings come from reducing management tiers and central staffing costs which would no longer be needed in the more slim line organisation. Staff currently working in libraries would be transferred into the IPS under TUPE employment rules.

Eventually, every library will have a community group involved and having a direct say in its day to day running.

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