Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Suffolk Libraries to Face Glasgow Disaster?

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Judy Terry: Inching Towards Disaster?

Speaking to a UNISON activist yesterday on the Ipswich March against Pension cuts (about 600 strong) she remarked that many people in Suffolk seem to think that with a change in name the New Strategic Direction is not going to be implemented.

That cuts won’t ‘really’ happen.

That for the Libraries, a new ‘Community Interest Company’, will protect services.

Lady Judy Terry, the portfolio holder on the County,  certainly likes to give that impression.

By contrast, Andrew Grant-Adamson has reported (Here.)

Private Eye says:

Before Suffolk rushes ahead, a glance at Glasgow might be informative. in 2007 the city council there outsourced all its museums, libraries and leisure centres by setting up Culture and Sport Glasgow, an arms-length charitable company with a CIC to operate as a “trading arm” and do the things a charity legally couldn’t.

There are cuts and redundancies facing all the services provided through Culture and Sport Glasgow, now expensively rebranded as Glasgow Life.

But while we know little about Suffolk’s plans, which seem to be for a social enterprise, possibly a CIC, to administer the county libraries, the comparisons with Glasgow are limited.

The CIC in Glasgow was set up to handle trading parts of the organisation, in much the same way as other major charities use them to run their shops. It represents a tiny part of the service.

Glasgow Life is a charity, funded largely by the City Council, which has got to make savings of £10m over three years (BBC). But this is on a £100m plus annual budget (Glasgow Life annual review).

That is a small cut compared with the 30% saving Suffolk CC is demanding in its library budget over thee years.

The Suffolk Coalition for Public Services has just circulated this (from Lowestoft Against the Cuts),

Mark Bee’s plan for a Community Interest Company to run Suffolk’s libraries has already been tried and has failed in Scotland. These government promoted schemes are supposed to attract outside funding. In fact Glasgow Life, the Scottish company which was handed Glasgow’s libraries, museums and sports facilities became a murky, unaccountable and failing company. Only three years after being formed Glasgow Life (then called Culture and Sport Glasgow) demanded wage cuts of up to 10% for some of its workers, wage freezes for the rest alongside cuts in holidays and overtime rates. It is now in the process of explaining why it has debts of £58m, how it will cope with further council cuts and what will happen to the 300 staff it is firing. Suffolk be warned.

A detailed history of Glasgow Life, the poor service and mess it has created,  can be found here.

The history of such organisations is littered with failures. They create unaccountable oligarchies. They end up costing more and delivering less than fully public services.

What are their attractions?

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

4 Responses

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  1. In Suffolk the Community Interest Company will recieve funding from the council.

    ariversideview

    July 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

  2. Glasgow Life’s accounts for 2009-10 show a loss of more than £48million on a £104m turnover. The loss is almost entirely due to provision for a pensions deficit. Whether there is an arrangement for the city to take responsibility for this I don’t know, but it is an area which clearly needs to be watched very closely in any divestments/outsourcing arrangements which happen in Suffolk.

    Andrew Grant-Adamson

    July 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm

  3. This is a recurring problem with Ipswich Buses.

    Andrew Coates

    July 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

  4. Whats the point of setting up a CIC (what I understand is half way between a charity and private profit business) – perhaps being a trading arm of a charity?

    I thought the idea was to SAVE money… wouldn’t this be expensive?

    Changing a business division in effect into its own business seems trivial when the council is still going to fund it. There are opportunities for specific funding and grants, however, rather optimistic to say the least.

    All this arms-length nonsense is pointless… the politics and everything remains, the only thing thats different is its a new entity different to the council. An alternative would be to sell the service to a private business to run but the obvious concerns remain with that.

    Work Programme

    July 4, 2011 at 5:58 pm


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