Mandy Gaylard’s Speech on Libraries during Budget debate

I am speaking in support of the amendment.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) is the legal Library Authority required to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”. Suffolk’s Labour Councillors consider that the County Council acted unreasonably in pushing through its unnecessary divestment policies in 2011. In response to a ‘Consultation’ about the library service in 2011, 83% of respondents said that the libraries in Suffolk should be funded, managed and wholly run by the County Council as required by law. SCC, who still claim to listen to the people of Suffolk, ignored these respondents.

In December 2011 the library service was divested to Suffolk Libraries IPS (Industrial and Provident Society).

We still believe SCC should provide the Libraries as a public service, but we recognise the hard work that the IPS has done to provide a continuing library service under difficult circumstances.

However, we fear for the long term future. Each year we have opposed the cuts to the library service funding only to be ignored by the Conservatives. But they cannot afford to ignore the Suffolk Libraries IPS which is providing the service. The Suffolk Libraries board have designed a scheme which will save the County money and continue with the excellent services which our Libraries provide. But the County Council has not listened – the £200,000 cut in funding for Suffolk Libraries proposed by the Conservatives for next year is completely unsustainable without seriously damaging the service that is being offered.

I am struck by the utter hypocrisy of the Conservative administration. Over the past 4 years I have heard Conservative Councillors boast about what a good decision they made, and praise Suffolk Libraries IPS for their excellent service. And yet now they totally ignore the advice that is given to them by the people who have the best interests of the Library Service and the people of Suffolk as their guiding principle. The Conservatives have shown complete disregard for the Suffolk Libraries board, the hardworking library staff, the volunteers, and the people of Suffolk.

The Library service is valued and held in high regard, both by Suffolk people and nationally. “In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service.”

35,000 Suffolk residents campaigned in 2011 to save the Libraries Service.

Now the Conservatives will not listen to the Suffolk Libraries IPS Board, nor to the 44 library community groups, 1400 volunteers, 170 thousand people who attend events and a further 140 thousand regular users of the library service. The people of Suffolk will be able to decide in May through the ballot box whether they are fed up with being told by the Conservatives that they listen to them when obviously they do not.

Rosehill Library

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