Lakenheath Library discussion at the Parish Council

On Monday I attended the monthly Lakenheath Parish Council meeting, having rushed back from a meeting in London with Suffolk’s MPs, to give my monthly report as Lakenheath’s Suffolk County Councillor.

In addition to my usual report I was extra keen to be there as they had kindly agreed to have a debate about the Lakenheath Library Consultation; and whilst it was tight getting back in time I particularly wanted to be in attendance as I had asked them to table the discussion.

At the start of the meeting the Chairman calls for representation from the public and a number of people spoke about the Library and were none too kind about Suffolk County Council. When we got to the discussion on the agenda I took on board what was said by the people who had come along to hear our discussion, in my comments.  

In opening I talked about the Government’s Comprehensive Spending revue and the 28% cuts to the county council’s overall funding the government has told us we must save over the next four years as our contribution to deal with the national budget deficit. I have also talked about the incredibly difficult decisions and indeed sleepless night many of the officers and councillors have had as we’ve wrestled with the implications and where we are going to have to make cuts.

I said it’s fair to say that cuts are never ever going to be popular but as we worked through the options before us, our priority has been to protect the vulnerable in our communities and seek to make savings that do not hurt the vital services. We are also driving through fundamentally changes to the Council and have proposed over 1400 job cuts this coming year; for that is what 28% less means, a fundamental change and in many respects what we have come to expect, what we have come to enjoy, is no longer financially available to us.

I went on to say the cuts have finally arrived on our door steps here in Lakenheath and on the 19th January it was announced that our great little library is under threat of closure. I informed the Council that on the afternoon of the 19th I visited Chris, our librarian to discuss what was very worrying news to him and we chatted through what I was going to try to do in response.

As they knew that evening I emailed the Parish Council and asked for the future of our library to be discussed at the next meeting and sent details of where Parish Councillors could find all the information they needed ahead of that debate.

I also informed them that I have hired the Peace Memorial Hall for a public meeting at 7:30pm on Thursday 10th March, I then handed out copied of the posters I am going to put up around the village and I said I hoped that as many of them and the residents of Lakenheath as possible would be able to come along.

I told them that I have arranged for staff from the Library service to be there to present the issues and explain the costs of running our Library.

Whilst they knew where to find the information because I had advised the Clerk, for the benefit of the public present, I said that they could read about the scale of the challenge before us and find all the details at: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/

I said the questions before us as a community are: Are we prepared to volunteer to run it? Are we prepared as a community to take on the building? Can we find ways to lower the running cost and possibly even make it pay for itself? How about a community coffee shop and cyber café? Can the local charities offer financial support?

I then informed the Council that for my part I am happy to facility the meeting on the 10th and to be involved in an action group and if we are able to come up with a robust business plan; I would be willing to help set up a community interest company and be pleased to be a Trustee. I had already confirmed with fellow Trustees of the Jabez and Selah Bennett Charity that we could offer £1,000 per year towards the running costs, which is a start.

I finished my contribution and members of the Parish Council then discussed some of their thoughts and a good and lively discussion was had, with some thoughts proposed that I am currently exploring as to what we might be able to achieve.

I finished my final thoughts by thanking them for their contribution and said I would be delighted to see them on Thursday 10th of March at 7:30pm at the Peace Memorial Hall and I would be delighted to see you there too!

Lakenheath Library – Dates for your Diary

Following on from the initial work to get the community behind a bid to keep our local Library open, there are two dates for your diary firstly the Lakenheath Parish Council will discuss the matter at the Parish Council meeting on Monday 7th February at the Lakenheath Methodist Church Hall from 7:00pm and then I have booked the Lakenheath Peace Memorial Hall for Thursday March 10th from 7:30pm for a village meeting, Poster will be going up shortly.

I have been able to get the area libraries Officer Lisa Elmer to attend the Parish Council meeting and she and the Head of Suffolk Library Services Roger McMaster will be there on the 10th March to help explain the challenge before us.

If you want to read about the scale of the challenge before us have a look at the various consultation papers at

http://colin.suffolkcc.gov.uk/Communicating/News/LibrariesConsultation2011.htm

This meeting is not about protesting at the proposed closure but about how much we as a village value our Library and if we do, what, are we going to collectively do to keep it open.

Are we prepared to volunteer to run it? Are we prepared as a community to take on the building? Can we find ways lower the running cost and possibly even make it pay for itself? How about a community coffee shop and cyber café? Can the local charities offer financial support?

For my part I am happy to facility the meeting on the 10th March and to be involved in an action group and if we are able to come up with a solution; I would be delighted to be on a future management board, I am also talking with the Charities I am involved in to see what tangible support we could offer.

So please come along to both meetings and lets discuss how we work together to keep our library open.

Lakenheath Library under threat

Matthew Hancock MP joins me to discuss the future for our local Library and who should be there returning a book but my predecessor as Council Councillor Mary Crane, with her husband Roger a former District Councillor

In this Blog and in articles I write for the local Parish Magazines I have talked about the Comprehensive Spending revue and the 28% cuts to the county council’s overall funding. I have also talked about the incredibly difficult decisions and indeed the sleepless nights many of the officers and Councillors have had as we have wrestled with the implications and where we are going to have to make cuts.

It’s fair to say that cuts are never ever going to be popular but as we worked through the options before us, our priority has been to protect the vulnerable in our communities and seek to make savings that do not hurt vital services.

The county council will fundamentally change; for that is what 28% less money means, a fundamental change and in many respects what we have come to expect, what we have come to enjoy, is no longer financially available to us.

On Tuesday the cuts have finally arrive on Lakenheath’s doorstep as it was announced that our great little library was under threat of closure unless the local community steps up and takes it over.

Of course I knew about this as I am in the cabinet of Suffolk and voted to for the strategy and consultation asking local communities to step forward to save our libraries, and I certainly did have a sleepless night thinking about the impact of this cut, but as I have said in print and on the radio the £43M saving we are going to have to make in the next year are all difficult choices.

Tuesday afternoon I visited Chris, our librarian to discuss this devastating news with him and we chatted through what I was going to do.

Tuesday night I emailed the Parish Council and asked for it to be discussed at the next meeting and details of where Parish Councillors could find all the information they needed ahead of that debate.

Wednesday morning I put a call into Matthew Hancock’s office and it was great that he agreed to visit the library with me today and to hear for himself the scale of the challenge before us. Just retruning a book was my predeccor Mary Crane and her husband Roger,a former District Councillor; both may have retired from the wider scene but are very active in our local Communitya nd it was good to have their intial thoughts as we discussed the future.

I told them that in addition to the Parish Council meeting I was arranging a Public meeting in mid-February to discuss our, as a community, response to the consultation and what we collectively might be able to come up with do to save the library and I will post those details here on my blog just as soon as I have them.

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