Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Poetry, Politics, Reading

Save our Suffolk libraries – and libraries everywhere

Suffolk County Council is threatening to close 29 libraries (the council calls it divesting) in an effort to save money as instructed by central government. Ever heard of standing up and being counted?

A consultation period on these proposals started on 18th January and runs through 30 April 2011 at

What follows below is what I have put into the consultation response I sent them earlier today:

Please explain your idea or expression of interest below.

You may want to refer to the consultation document ‘Have your say on the future of Suffolk’s libraries’ for criteria and suggestions about different approaches to running libraries in Suffolk and elsewhere.

Also, please include in your answer:

• Whether you can personally contribute, or if your suggestion is made on behalf of a local organisation, company or individual(s)

• Who might provide the service and how?

Suffolk currently pay their CEO, Andrea Hill, £220,000 per year, which could pay for several of the libraries you are threatening to close. I would therefor like to suggest that her post is “divested”, just as the Council is divesting other, more core, services.

Her post could be filled as follows:

(a) Suffolk and a neighbouring County could share a CEO. This is a real possibility and Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District do this already. They could also share several senior Director posts saving even more money for frontline services. This is precisely the model the County are suggesting for a schools who are pressed to share Headteachers and create partnerships.

(b) I am happy to volunteer together with others with senior management experience to help out and undertake the CEOs post in a voluntary capacity, ie free of charge. There will undoubtedly be many people in Suffolk who would each give some of their time on a rota basis, much much as they are volunteering their time for libraries.

If Mrs Hill thinks voluntary community services are such a wonderful thing (and I agree with her that volunteering is indeed a great way to contribute to our communities), I am quite sure she will stand aside without hesitation in the interest of adding value to Suffolk’s communities and society as a whole.

I can provide you with my CV, and am also already proactively engaging with a number of friends, colleagues and service users to create a core group which can carry forward this proposal.

How will your idea or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%?

The above suggestion re the divestment of Andrea Hill also applies to other senior staff posts at Suffolk County Council, some of whom provide their services to the council on a freelance basis and on significant dayrates. These senior posts would be filled from the group I am now assembling, of volunteerswith senior management experience and the desire to make Suffolk County Council work for the benefit of the people of Suffolk.

If you have already sought support or interest from individuals or organisations in your community, please give details below (eg. meetings attended, level of support)

It would at this point be inappropriate to reveal the details of my negotiations with interested parties.

We have categorised libraries into county libraries and community libraries. (See Appendix 1 of the main consultation document, ‘Have your say on the future of Suffolk’s libraries’). What do you think about the criteria we have used and allocation of libraries to each category?

I believe your categorisation of libraries, and the criteria used, are inappropriate, and smack of cultural fascism.

The minimum distance between county libraries, as defined by you, is too small, which reduces the reach of libraries, effectively providing urban areas with services whilst ignoring rural areas. This is discrimination against those who live and work in the rural areas of Suffolk.

The claim that most community libraries are in areas of “relative affluence” is imprecise (relative affluence to what?), offensive (many rural areas such as Stradbroke are defined as deprived), and smacks of spin of the worst kind against libraries in villages and small towns. In fact, it makes it appear as if you have already decided to close these libraries.

What do you think about our overall proposals for the library service?

The proposals are poorly thought out, and do not take into account the crass overpayment of your senior staff, nor the importance of providing library and other core cultural services free of charge across the county. Whilst our libraries burn, the county’s elected and non-elected members burn our money on expenses and overblown salaries.

I have set up a facebook page supporting the divestment of Mrs Hill’s job. You can join it here.


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