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County looks at community interest company to support libraries

Thursday, 12th May 2011.

A community interest company may be set up to support organisations which take over libraries in Suffolk.

The new leader of the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council today stressed he was determined to see the county's libraries put on a 'strong and sustainable footing for years to come'.

As work continues on sifting through responses to the council’s library consultation, Cllr Mark Bee said: “This is about taking the long-term view. From the outset this was about finding ways to work with communities to sustain our library services in a way that effectively meets local needs.”

"What’s clear from this consultation is that our libraries are seen as an important and highly-valued part of the fabric of local communities. But, we know that there will be less money to spend on providing services, including libraries in the years ahead.

"What we have to do now is square that circle - finding a way to ensure the library services we all value can flourish, but in a way that we can afford, and which meets the needs of people in the years to come.

“Having listened closely to people's concerns, it’s clear that they are interested in running libraries but would need our support with the practicalities of doing so.

"We are therefore now looking very carefully at the idea of setting up a community interest company which would be at arm's length from, but wholly owned by, the council.

"This company could provide central support for a thriving network of libraries, whilst cutting bureaucracy and saving money.”

Talking about the 4,000 responses that have been received so far, he added: “It’s been really impressive to see the enthusiasm people have been expressing, and the creativity they have shown in developing new ideas. We want to tap into this enthusiasm as we draw up our proposals.

“While we can’t rule out the possibility of some closures, the aim is to keep these to a minimum. At the same time, there may be areas where increased demand actually means we decide to plan for new libraries.

“What is absolutely certain, is that we are listening to what people are saying, and will work with them in the weeks and months ahead, to ensure that Suffolk’s library services are put on a strong and sustainable footing for years to come.”

A report on the next steps will be presented to Suffolk County Council’s cabinet in July.

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