SCC Cabinet should have considered the future of SPAL at its 29 May meeting but, for a 3rd consecutive month, the report on SPAL from SCC's officers was delayed. The Leader of the Council hopes the report will come to the 26 June Cabinet meeting, in which case the report would be published, with the Cabinet agenda, on SCC's website about 19 June.
Nearly 50 people, representing a wide range of music and drama groups, attended the 29 May Cabinet meeting - wearing blue T-shirts urging Cabinet to Give SPAL to the community - to demonstrate their frustration with the continuing delay in bringing SPAL's future to Cabinet for a decision. More than 300 groups, and a large number of individuals, have pledged support to NewSPAL (the charity established on behalf of users to bid to take over SPAL).
NewSPAL trustee John Thornely asked a public question about the delay. A written reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, was tabled at the meeting. (A copy is printed at the end of this update.) According to Cllr Mrs Turner-Stewart, the delay is because SCC is continuing "to explore options for interim arrangements for SPAL".
In a supplementary question, John Thornely queried why SCC officer time and money was still being spent on interim arrangements instead of working directly with NewSPAL on a long-term sustainable future. (The obvious interim arrangement is to leave SPAL where it is while all concerned work constructively and transparently on a permanent solution which saves the Council money but can be supported by users.) John therefore asked what ‘interim’ or ‘permanent’ outcomes SCC officers were working towards and when plans would finally come to Cabinet for a decision.
The answer was once again not very illuminating, except it appears there is now an intention to keep SPAL together (rather than the previous plan to separate drama from music), but it is unclear whether that is as an interim (whilst NewSPAL gets ready to take over) or as a permanent in-house solution. Even the 26 June Cabinet meeting is not yet guaranteed to be the one where the future of SPAL will be debated.
Meanwhile, NewSPAL is working on a statement of the criteria by which both its own and any alternative in-house proposal from Surrey Libraries should be judged - in terms of what is likely to secure the best sustainable long-term future for SPAL users. Watch out for further information soon.
Thank you to all the users and supporters who have given of their time and pledged support in terms of time, expertise and/or money.
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