Tendance Coatesy

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Suffolk Libraries Under Threat.

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Concern Grows as Suffolk County Council Tories Try to Stop Libraries Connecting with the Public.

More than 50 jobs could go at Suffolk libraries due to budget cuts

EADT. Paul Geater.

More than 50 jobs at Suffolk libraries are under threat as the service is being forced into a major restructure following two years of serious budget cuts.

Bosses have written to 52 staff telling them that their posts are under threat. Many work only a few hours a week and the job losses amount to 15 full-time equivalent posts.

Formal consultation starts on the job losses at the start of next week and the service restructure is due to be in place by April next year – none of the county’s 44 library branches are expected to close and opening hours should not be affected.

The restructure comes after the library service budget was cut by £230,000 by Suffolk County Council in April – and that followed a £300,000 cut last year.

The service has recently been awarded a £700,000 grant by the Arts Council, but that is for a specific project and cannot be used to subsidise basic services.

Suffolk Libraries Chief Executive Alison Wheeler said this would be the first major reorganisation of the service since 1990: “Then the work of the libraries service was very different to what it is today, but we understand this will be a very difficult time for those going through the redundancy process,” she said.

Over the next two weeks there are a series of meetings for library staff across the county to hear more about the plans and those directly involved in the redundancy process will have a 45-day consultation process.

Ms Wheeler added: “We do of course recognise that this is very stressful for people affected, and we are doing what we can to ensure that they are well informed, and have plenty of opportunity to give their views.

“What we all care about is ensuring that Suffolk’s libraries have a sustainable future.”

The library service was set up as an industrial and provident society in 2012 to run Suffolk’s libraries on behalf of the county council – it relies largely on finance from the county but its buildings in towns and villages have become community hubs as well as places to borrow books.

All the branches have remained open and Ms Wheeler said this remained a key aim of the service as it prepares to restructure itself for the future. Ms Wheeler herself is planning to take early retirement from the service early in the new year once a successor has been appointed.

Campaigners opposed the creation of an Industrial and Provident society on the grounds that it would both remove direct democratic accountability for Suffolk Libraries and would not, in the long run, shelter the libraries from the hostile treatment towards all public services by the Conservative ruling group on the County Council.

Suffolk has been spared the wholesale closure of libraries that has wreaked havoc on the services in many parts of the country.

The dedicated staff are to be congratulated on their efforts to open the service to wider communities and to keep the libraries as welcoming public spaces.

But the drip drip of cuts has began to eat into the provision of books, and has led to the almost complete removal of periodicals, from Private Eye to the Times Literary Supplement, from the central library.

Coincidentally or not Suffolk Libraries was a subject of informal discussion very recently (last night) amongst Labour activists, including representatives of the Labour group on the County Council.

Volumes of important texts have been sold off for not more than a few pence.

The number of qualified – and therefore better paid –  librarians working in the service is approaching zero.

Efforts to raise money include this:

Suffolk Libraries launches new supporters’ scheme

People can sign up at three different price levels: £20 for Silver membership, £50 for Gold, or £150 for Platinum. For more information and to apply, visit the Suffolk Libraries Extra page, call 01473 351249 or visit any library. You can also email extra@suffolklibraries.co.uk if you have any questions about the scheme.

All money raised will go into a dedicated Development Fund which will be used to support and improve the services we provide.

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries, said: “Suffolk Libraries is determined to provide the best service we can to the people of Suffolk and to make a positive difference to the lives of as many people that live here, even if we face continuing financial pressures. We want to do our bit and raise additional income which will be used to improve the services we provide to communities across Suffolk.

“All our other customers will continue to get the same free services and benefits, we just want to provide something extra for those who feel able to give us some extra support.”

This is a matter of deep concern.

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 26, 2017 at 11:24 am

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