Mutual Ventures

Libraries Unlimited

Devon County Council’s budget for library services reduced by £3 million (30%) over 6 years. This reduction was initially sustained through a combination of reducing management and support services, reduced opening hours and a lowering of investment in resources. However, in 2016/17 further budget reductions meant significant changes were required to ensure libraries across the county remained open.

Following extensive stakeholder engagement, Libraries Unlimited established as an independent staff and community owned Public Service Mutual with charitable status on 1st April 2016.

Support offered

Mutual Ventures provided bespoke business planning and transition support to ensure the establishment of a sustainable, innovative and outcomes-focused PSM. Our support included:

  • Engaging with service leadership, staff, council officers, elected members and Friends Groups to develop the vision, mission and values of the new organisation
  • The development of a 5 year business plan that identified the current and future service offerings, informed by a range of stakeholders, financial sustainability and service performance
  • Support to define the charity’s legal form and governance structure, in addition to the development of a prudent 5 year financial model, including cash flow analysis
  • Advising on pensions, various terms of the contract and the timing of the Council’s savings profile
  • Supporting the development of job descriptions and personal specifications for senior managers and Board of Trustee positions
  • The development and implementation of a costed transition plan

Once established, Mutual Ventures supported Libraries Unlimited to secure the contract to deliver library services in Torbay, as part of our Big Potential funded support designed to support the charity to grow.

Outcome achieved

Being a PSM ensures that customers, staff and communities directly influence the design and ambitions of the organisation, helping Libraries Unlimited and their partners (including Devon County Council) to achieve shared priorities and improve outcomes for customers and communities.

Savings targets of £1.5 million were achieved during the first 2 years. All 50 libraries remain open and run by paid staff. In addition, Libraries Unlimited has been able to secure new sources of funding to trail new and innovative library services. For example, the charity secured the contract to deliver library services in Torbay. The charity also became an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation in June 2017. This additional funding enables Libraries Unlimited to expand the library offer and to support the organisation’s sustainability.

The support provided by MV on this project was exceptional.  The consultants were professional, supportive, conscientious and were able to build excellent relationships and credibility across the multiple stakeholders involved on the project.  Their help ensured that we were able to ‘spin-out’ within the required timescales.” Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive, Libraries Unlimited South West