County to start library company?

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SUFFOLK’S libraries are likely to be run by a specially formed community company.

The county is planning to set up a not-for-profit community interest company to oversee the running of libraries at arms length from costly local authority bureaucracy.

The plan was leaked days after the libraries consultantion closed on April 30. Judy Terry, the county councillor in charge of the consultation, said: “We feel a CIC is a good way of employing and training staff, purchasing central services like IT and new books and managing property and insurance.

“The consultation showed local communities were happy to take on libraries but had concerns about those things.”

She said communities could still run libraries but could get the backing of the CIC.

Cllr Terry added: “It would cut overheads significantly because you don’t have all the central on costs of a large organisation.

“Our whole mission has been not to close libraries and we hope this will give us a tool to ensure libraries don’t close”

She thanked people for their ideas. “It has promoted a huge amount of creative thinking,” she said. “It really has galvanised people to think about how they use this [library] space.

“In the past the county council has just ‘done libraries’ whereas the consultation process has highlighted that every library is different. In some areas, the social aspect is more important than the books.

“Local communities know how to run libraries to suit their community.”

Cllr Terry said the council would spend the next month analysing information received and then set up a working group to report to cabinet in the autumn. Details of how the CIC would work and who wouldbe on it are still to be finalised but Cllr Terry said it should have members of the public on its board.

When the consultation was launched, the county said it would back the future of 15 main libraries while the future of the remaining 29 depended on ideas from the community.