Suffolk libraries divestment 'a success' says former protester

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A man who campaigned against divestment of library services in Suffolk says the fact that all libraries remain open shows it in fact worked.

The running of the 44 libraries was relinquished by the county council a year ago, when an independent provident society (IPS) took over.

James Hargrave said he feared a "large number" of libraries would have closed.

However, Councillor Inga Lockington said it was "too early" to say if the scheme had been successful.

"If it means we keep our libraries open, then yes it was a good move," said Ms Lockington, a Liberal Democrat county councillor.

"Let's speak in two to three years' time when they've been running for a while and things need money spent on them."

'Rocky road'

Suffolk County Council hoped to save £2.6m a year by handing over the day-to-day running of the libraries, its mobile libraries and the services for schools and prisons.

Mr Hargrave was amongst those who spoke out about the plans but is now employed as IT manager for the IPS.

"It's sometimes been a rocky road but I think a year on we can be proud of what we've achieved," he said.

"If we look at what's been going on elsewhere we have reason to be proud in Suffolk, several other authorities have cut opening hours or looking to substantially cut the number of branches."

The IPS signed a 10 year contract to run the services.

Rosehill Readers, a group who campaigned against the divestment, says it is still "opposed to this course of action".

Nobody was available to comment on the current status, but on the group's website it says: "We recognise that the IPS will try to provide a continuing library service under difficult circumstances but we fear for the long term future of Suffolk's public libraries.

"We consider that Suffolk County Council has acted unreasonably in pushing through its unnecessary divestment policies."

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