Kent County Council could create charity to run libraries through outsourcing agenda

News Shopper: Dartford Library is one of the libraries which would be affected by the proposal Dartford Library is one of the libraries which would be affected by the proposal

Kent County Council is considering creating a Big Society-style charitable trust to run libraries as part of its outsourcing programme.

The plan was announced in a council meeting last Thursday (May 15) in move which is hoped to save between £150m and £250m over the next decade - and could lead to a reduction in paid staff and more volunteers.

The proposal is to establish a Kent Trust to operate the libraries, registration and archives service which would mean a loss of control of Kent County Council (KCC)’s role and increased community involvement.

A community benefit society would take over the service which could bring huge savings through tax breaks because the organisation would be classed as charitable.

Overheads would also likely be reduced.

News Shopper: KCC leader Paul Carter is "delighted" with his CBE.

Less library staff?

This model could lead to a reduction in staff and a more significant role for volunteers.

A report published by law firm Winckworth Sherwood, The growing role of trusts in the culture, library and leisure sectors, described one disadvantage of the model as “over-reliance on few key staff”.

The 2010 document said: “Any new trust created by a local authority will need to have maximum community involvement on the managing body from people willing to devote their time voluntarily to the cause.

“The commitment of the community representatives is often a significant factor in the success of a new trust reflecting the Big Society localism agenda.”

The council will retain some control over the service although to what extent is currently unknown.

The author of the KCC report, head of policy and strategic relationships David Whittle, said: “Under the trust model the assets remain with KCC and it is possible to create a governance mechanism to ensure member representation and influence over the service.”

Savings

Kent County Council (KCC) approved the Facing the Challenge: Delivering Better Outcomes agenda last September which signalled a significant overhaul of services.

Over the last six years, KCC has reduced the cost of the service by £6m and plans to save an extra £1m by 2016 in response to reduced government funding.

Cabinet member for community services Councillor Michael Hill said: "We are looking at a range of options and are drawing up a business case.

"There are number of different models but in principle, it would work as some kind of trust."

What do you think of the proposal? 

Call the newsdesk on 01689 885 721 or email hwood@london.newsquest.co.uk

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