On Wednesday I was a rather pessimistic (earlier post) about the previous day’s Suffolk County Council scrutiny committee where I feared the opportunity of opening further constructive talks on libraries had somehow slipped away.
Today things are looking more hopeful following a press release from the council and the reaction of one of the campaigners who gave evidence to the committee.
The press release, issued quickly and before formal minutes are available, clarifies the committee’s recommendations.
Colin Hart, who chairs the committee thanked those who had given evidence and said:
This was a valuable exercise in scrutinising an issue before decisions are taken and I hope and expect our recommendations will make a positive contribution to the new policy that is being developed.
The release which includes the valuable recommendations of the committee has not yet appeared on the county council website, but my copy is here.
James Hargrave, one of the campaigners who gave evidence to the committee, reacted on his blog saying:
I am hopeful that there is now an opportunity for all sides to sit down and discuss the situation and work together for the good of the counties libraries.
During the meeting on Tuesday a meeting was suggested, but it seemed to me that the opportunity faded away. Now, I hope it is back on track.
The press release quotes Judy Terry the council cabinet member responsible for libraries saying:
I am extremely grateful for the comments from committee members, representatives of various campaign groups and those who have submitted bids. We’re continuing to listen and will base future policy on exhaustive consultation with the people of Suffolk.
The scrutiny committee recommendations are:
- the classification of County Libraries and Community Libraries referred to in the Consultation document is not a reasonable basis for a policy;
- the potential community interest company agrees individual budgets for each library;
- the business case considered by Cabinet should clearly demonstrate how the community interest company service would operate across the whole of Suffolk;
- that the Council retain the ability to ensure that the terms offered by the community interest company were sufficient to maintain a sustainable service;
- any claims on secondary taxation from Parish, Town, District or Borough Councils be carried out on an equitable basis across Suffolk;
- due consideration be given to innovative ideas that have already come forward and any others that are received from communities on how their services might be run;
- the policy on mobile libraries be clearly stated in the report to Cabinet;
- the Council provide absolute clarity to communities interested in running their libraries on issues they were likely to raise such as finance, staffing and legal issues;
Mark Valladares in his blog puts the blame for the farrago surrounding Andrea Hill squarely on the shoulders of the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council.
He would, of course. He is a Liberal Democrat standing for election to Mid Suffolk District Council as representative of Stowupland and is naturally trying to distance himself from the Tories. He is also right: the appointment of Hill as the county’s chief executive was partisan.
Three conservatives voted for her and for the high salary, later criticised by the district auditor. The Lib Dem and the Labour members (one for each party) of the panel
voted against her appointment abstained on her appointment but voted against ratification and for a reference back of her pay at the full council meeting. (see comments.)
Are there any Tory, Labour or Green bloggers standing in Mid Suffolk? We need more blogging councillors because, unfortunately, newspaper coverage of local politics is pretty thin these days.