Communities set for pilot projects

IPSWICH: Library campaigners have today told of their disappointment as the county council presses on with a pilot project that will test whether or not community groups can run the service.

Suffolk County Council has announced that 14 communities will take over part or all of the running of their libraries in April next year.

The authority will work with the organisations - including town and parish councils, community groups, a staff collective and an independent community company - to deliver seven pilot projects. The schemes will be used to assess the effectiveness of the council’s new approach to library services.

One of the seven projects will be led by those fighting to secure the future of Gainsborough, Chantry, Ipswich, Stoke, Rosehill and Westbourne libraries in Ipswich.

They will run the services in the town with support from the council.

However, Abby Barker, of Save Rosehill, said: “We are really disappointed because more than 80per cent of those that responded to the consultation said that they wanted them to remain under the county council.

“It seems they have ignored the opinions of service users. You need actual expertise and experience to run a library.”

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Judy Terry, cabinet lead for the libraries review, said: “The groups we’re working with have told us they are very keen to be pilot projects and help develop the council’s new approach to a library service.

“We are very grateful for their support and will do everything we can to make their plans successful.

“We are of course still open to working with other groups who share our ambition of making Suffolk’s library service a strong and sustainable model for the future.”

Bosses had said that 29 libraries would have to shut unless people came forward to run them.

However after a tidal wave of public concern the council made a U-turn.

A decision on how that organisation will work will be made in November following a best value evaluation.