Library services protected as Suffolk County Council approves additional funding

Suffolk County Council has today underlined its commitment to library services in Suffolk.
Published: 16 May 2023

Suffolk County Council has today underlined its commitment to library services in Suffolk, as it approved plans to increase its funding to Suffolk Libraries, to enable the service to continue operating at its current level, until the end of the contract in July 2024.

Suffolk Libraries currently receives £5.9m per year from Suffolk County Council, however the service is forecasting a deficit of £60k per month from April 2023. The service has cited increases in service costs, a reduction in income opportunities following the Coronavirus Pandemic and rising inflation, as causes of the deficit.

This means it is no longer possible for the service to continue operating at its current level of service, within its current contract value.

At today’s meeting of Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet, the council has approved plans to absorb this cost pressure, funding Suffolk Libraries an additional £720k per year, through to the end of the current contract in July 2024. This additional funding will support Suffolk Libraries to continue delivering its highly valued services to Suffolk Residents.

Cllr Bobby Bennett, Cabinet Member for Equality and Communities, said: “We recognise the important role that Libraries play in the community, they offer so much more than just books; providing community spaces which bring people together, to learn, socialise, read and take part in activities.

“We are proud of the work Suffolk libraries do, which is recognised nationally, and we are committed to supporting the service to maintain this high standard.

“This is why Suffolk County Council is increasing its funding to Suffolk Libraries, to support them to continue delivering the outstanding service they provide for our residents.”

The council has previously made a commitment to continue to support Suffolk Libraries. At Suffolk County Council’s full council meeting in February, the council agreed to fund an additional £250k in the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year to help with the increased costs Highlighted by Suffolk Libraries. This £250k for the first quarter of the year is included within the overall figure agreed by Cabinet today, of an additional £720k for the 2023/24 financial year.

The council also supported Suffolk Libraries with £155,000 for initiatives to support residents with Cost of Living and support for Digital Inclusion in the 2022/23 financial year.

In addition, the Council continues to successfully access Section 106 funding to support ongoing building developments required to ensure buildings are fit for purpose and support service delivery.

Bruce Leeke, CEO of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We are delighted that Suffolk County Council has agreed to provide us with additional funding for the remainder of our current contract. Our direct library costs have significantly increased over the last few years and the pandemic impacted our ongoing fundraising and income generation initiatives. This has combined to create a budget deficit which would have made it difficult to maintain the same comprehensive service for the people of Suffolk without additional support.

“Since 2012, we have been nationally recognised for delivering innovative and forward-thinking services which reduce inequality and improve community wellbeing, whilst saving a significant amounts of public money.

“We have a very positive and supportive relationship with the county council and this decision shows that councillors appreciate the responsiveness, skill and passion of our colleagues working at the heart of every major community in Suffolk.”