Press release

First staff-led mutual library receives £100,000 backing

Francis Maude visited library staff in York's Explore Centre who are set to become part of the first UK mutual library and archive service.

CAB 009-13

29 January 2013

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, today visited library staff in York’s Explore Centre who are set to become part of the first mutual library and archive service in the country. During the visit, the minister announced that the Cabinet Office Mutuals Support Programme will provide up to £100,000 of business planning and legal advice for the ground-breaking project.

City of York Council runs fifteen libraries and a historic archive service, including the flagship Explore Centre, in the heart of the city. These employ nearly one hundred people who, under the plans, will form a new social enterprise to give the staff greater scope to work with the local community and more say in how services are delivered. The service will continue to receive funding from the council but will also have the flexibility to earn income, such as through the existing successful cafes or by creating new services. The mutual business model also allows for companies to bid to take over other services in other parts of the country.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude said:

Libraries are treasured local services. Running them as mutuals could raise service quality and make them financially sustainable in the long-term. People who work in libraries and local public archives are the real experts, they know what local people want and how best to deliver it. The mutual model puts power in their hands.

City of York Council’s support for this project is great news for local people. Together with the library service employees, they are pioneering a new way of delivering library and archive services which will be a model for others to follow. And I’m very pleased to pledge substantial backing from the Cabinet Office Mutual Support Programme, which will help get this project off the ground.

City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Councillor Sonja Crisp said:

We will do all in our powers to protect York’s high performing library and archive service. We are committed to a thorough exploration of how this can be achieved and will use this Cabinet Office funding to support this work. As the service is currently structured, it is not viable in the long term so we have to look at alternative forms of delivery.

City of York Council’s Councillor James Alexander, Leader of City of York Council said:

We have seen library closures happening across the country, including in many local council areas, and want to avoid this happening in York so a mutual approach is a sensible option worth exploring. This £100,000 from the Cabinet Office will let us support the service in any transition to a new method of delivery and is a great endorsement of the approach we are investigating to protect our library service for York residents. Our plans are for a professionally-led service, supported by the community, for the community it serves.

Fiona Williams, City of York Council’s Head of Library Services said:

York’s libraries and archives have a clear vision for the future built around the development of our Explore concept. We plan to ensure both the sustainability and the quality of the service through improvement and development. The quality of the service is paramount: it must have professional librarians and archivists at its heart ensuring a comprehensive and efficient service.

We need to involve staff and the community much more in how services are delivered and developed and we need to be able to easily bring in skills and knowledge that we don’t have. This support from the Cabinet Office will enable us to look in detail at the proposal.

The mutuals agenda has been gathering strength in the public sector. For example, City Health Care Partnership in Hull, since spinning out, has boosted patient satisfaction and delivered efficiency savings worth £600,000 a year, whilst securing a number of new services, including a £6 million, five-year contract for an Integrated GP and Minor Injuries Centre.

Notes to editors

  1. The Mutual Support Programme has £10million to provide professional business services and advice to public servants who want to form mutuals and spin-out from the public sector. Further information is available from the Mutuals Information Service.

  2. Sixty-six public service mutuals deliver around a billion pounds worth of services in areas such as health and social care.

  3. Mutual Ventures has been contracted by the Cabinet Office to provide the business and legal services which City of York Libraries & Archives will need to set up the new mutual. Under current plans, the mutual will be formed as an industrial and provident society for community benefit where staff or community members can take a nominal share, and any surplus will be reinvested back into the service.

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