Labour’s pledge to support campaigners and reverse unnecessary cuts to Suffolk Libraries in bid to keep all Libraries in the County open.
Despite warnings from Suffolk Libraries – who offered the ruling Conservative Group a compromise that would see funds reduced gradually over time, while new funding sources were found and secured, ensuring that all Libraries remain open – the administration at Suffolk County Council last week voted through an extra £200,000 of cuts to the Library service. The Labour Group’s amendment, which was voted down by Conservative and UKIP Councillors in a debate at Full Council on the 9th February, proposed to reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries over their long-term financial sustainability.
In an official statement after the vote, the Chair of Suffolk Libraries, Tony Brown, said “Negotiations and discussions between Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries have been continuing over the past year. Though less than originally proposed, we have reluctantly agreed to accept the £200,000 reduction for 2017/18. In our discussions with the council we have made it clear that we have reached a point at which we cannot make further efficiency savings so a reduction of this level is going to be challenging.”
A spokesperson from Rosehill Campaign Group said, “We are shocked at the Council vote. The County Council is squirrelling away money into its reserves instead of spending it on public services. Yes, we need some financial reserves but not to this level; it cannot be justified. This decision means that essential public services will continue to suffer. This includes our much-loved library service.”
“A few years ago thousands of people signed petitions in Suffolk to keep our libraries open. We are deeply concerned that continued cuts will undermine the viability of our library service. People rely on libraries for a wide range of services. We need to keep our libraries open, keep them healthy and build on their success. The cut-backs suggest that the County Council is completely out of touch with its residents. We have the County Council elections coming up in May – so watch out Suffolk County Council as it will then be our turn to vote…”
Library campaigner, Jennifer Greatrex, said “Just how are the libraries’ board objectives to “protect and improve the service” going to be achieved when £200,000 is cut from their budget? I feel very sorry for all the staff and the volunteers in friends’ groups across the county who have worked so hard to try to ensure that the service evolves to meet the needs of local communities. In times of economic hardship, the libraries are even more important. The ruling group on SCC seems to be obsessed with cuts for cuts sake.”
Labour Spokesperson for Communities, Mandy Gaylard, who was also an active Libraries campaigner in 2011, said “When I became a Councillor in 2013, I promised myself that I would continue the fight to keep Libraries open. Every year, the Conservatives have cut the Library service and refused responsibility for any of the consequences. Every year, Suffolk Libraries have struggled as a result. This cut goes too far and only underlines how little they actually care about the County’s Libraries or listen to the people they claim to represent.”
Cllr Gaylard continued, “What strikes me most is the callous hypocrisy of the administration’s position: they claim to listen, to negotiate with Suffolk Libraries. Yet, when the Library service says that they cannot cope with this cut and go to extraordinary lengths to offer them a viable alternative, they ignore them.”
Cllr Gaylard concluded, “It is heartening to know that important campaigners and activists, who have fought so hard to make our Libraries the excellent resource that they are, support the Labour position. As we head to elections in May, we pledge to immediately reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries if we form an administration after May.”
Notes for Editor
Full Statement from Suffolk Libraries available here: https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/news/suffolk-libraries-statement-following-suffolk-county-councils-budget-decision/