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DIY library service takes another step forward

PUBLISHED: 12:06 05 August 2011 | UPDATED: 12:11 05 August 2011

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2009

A pilot project to test whether community groups can run 14 of Suffolk’s once-threatened libraries has been unveiled.

The announcement that dedicated groups will take over all or part of running 14 branches – including Bungay – from April next year was made by Suffolk County Council yesterday.

It follows months of negotiations in the long-running saga to save Suffolk’s library network.

The libraries in Oulton Broad, Kessingland and Southwold - which had all faced having their funding cut under controversial council divestment plans - are not part of the pilot project, but discussions to keep them open are ongoing.

The county council says it will work with organisations, including town and parish councils, community groups, a staff collective and an independent community company, to deliver seven pilot projects.

The libraries involved are Aldeburgh; Bungay; Eye, Debenham and Stradbroke (working together); Gainsborough, Chantry, Ipswich, Stoke, Rosehill and Westbourne (working together); Sudbury; Thurston, and Wickham Market .

A spokesman for Suffolk reassured library supporters, who have campaigned hard to keep their local branches open, that plans for Oulton Broad, Kessingland or Southwold remain afloat.

She said discussions to keep the three branches are ongoing and although they are not involved in the pilot project, various parties have shown an interest in taking them over.

Earlier this year, the county council announced that under its plans to “divest” services and save millions of pounds, 29 libraries would have to shut unless community groups came forward to take them over.

However, after huge public outcry, the council made a U-turn and said it would oversee a new organisation to help run them. A decision on how that will work will be made in November following a best-value evaluation.


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