Not for profit company may help run libraries

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SUFFOLK is likely to set up a not for profit company to help communities run their libraries the way they want them.

The panel looking at responses to the county council’s four-month library consultation took its early conclusions to the county’s scrutiny committee which backed the line it is taking.

Judy Terry, the councillor in charge of the consultation, said after Tuesday’s meeting: “The main proposal we’ll be putting to cabinet in July is to have a social enterprise, an arms length, not for profit company. We feel that’s the best vehicle to assist people to take forward their ideas – and there are some great ideas.

“It’s clear that libraries serve their communities in different ways. It’s not always about books, they’re about community spaces and events, too. We need to give the local communities the freedom to interpret their local service as they wish but with the confidence that they have central support.”

Cllr Terry said the consultations had shown that across the community there were concerns about issues like paying staff, insurance and building management, which the social enterprise could take on.

She said most people had understood that savings needed to be made and many had come up with good ideas of how to do that and retain libraries as communities wanted them. She added: “We have seen some very strong proposals and some that aren’t so robust. I’m grateful for the passion that has been demonstrated because people were a bit frightened about what might be happening to their library service. We’ve all learned a lot about our libraries, rather than just accepting that they’re there.

“We want a service that will take us through the next 20 years. We don’t want something we’ll have to go through again in five years.”

The consultation between January and April brought in 4,000 responses from members of the public. The county needs to reduce the library budget by 30 per cent, or £2.7 million, over two years.