Suffolk libraries to stay open under new council plans

All of Suffolk's 44 public libraries will remain open, according to the county council.

The Conservative-run local authority will set-up a new organisation to run the library service.

Three options for the new body are being considered by the council's cabinet, which meets later this month.

Budget cuts had meant the county originally planned to close 29 smaller libraries unless community groups were found to run them.

Councillor Judy Terry said: "Most important of all was not closing any of Suffolk's libraries."

Suffolk County Council agreed to make £42.5m cuts to its budget in 2011-12.

'Significant savings'

Since the original proposal and public consultation, the Conservative group has a new leader, Mark Bee, and the council's chief executive, Andrea Hill, has left.

The three options being considered by the county council are to either create an in-house council business unit, create an external company owned by the council or have an independent company which is contracted by the council.

Ms Terry, the portfolio holder for libraries, said: "We're done some preliminary financial modelling and, based on the expressions of interest that have come forward, we believe we can make significant savings and also increase the income for the library service.

"We have been listening and it's evident that there are a lot of groups that want to have control over their local service.

"It's not about cutting hours, as they have done in Norfolk and Essex, it's about increasing usage but in a different way."

The council said the library budget is currently £8.9m a year and it will be able to make 30% savings over the next three years.

Jennie Pink, a campaigner for Saxmundham Library, said: "We can't see how we're going to get an acceptable service with 30% less funding.

"It's still not in the position where we're seeing the logic behind Suffolk County Council's thinking.

"I think in two to three years' time, we're going to look at losing many of these libraries, which is our main concern."

The council's cabinet will meet on 19 July to consider the options with a final decision taking place in November.

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