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Update 16 May 2018


SCC has again deferred consideration by Cabinet of the future of SPAL - for the 3rd month running!

The NewSPAL Trustees view this procrastination with GREAT CONCERN and have released the following update:


Why not give Surrey residents a chance?

SCC officers are undermining the community’s efforts to take on the Surrey Performing Arts Library from the cash-strapped council, once again refusing to take the matter to Cabinet on 29 May for a decision


Last year Surrey County Council (SCC), beset by financial woes, held a consultation on the future of the Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL), a service it has been providing for decades for the hundreds of drama and music groups in the county, facilitating affordable access to multiple copies of a vast range of plays and sheet music (as well as lending single copies of books and music).


The response to the consultation (over 1,000 individuals plus regional and national organisations, and coverage in local and UK media) caught SCC by surprise, showing they were unaware of the impact of this award-winning service, one of the three largest in England.


Registered users may be ‘only’ in their hundreds, but each represents a group of participants in an amateur dramatic society or choir, orchestra or reading group, amounting to 15,000-20,000 participants countywide. And including the audience members for the events these groups stage, there are over 160,000 people benefitting annually from the Surrey Performing Arts Library, which currently costs about £100k to run and generates over £70k in income from users towards those costs.


That the library’s users would object to closure of the service was presumably expected. But SCC were counting on support for their preferred option of continuing to run the service, albeit not in its present form. Users, however, understood quite well what SCC’s option would mean for their beloved resource: dispersed over several libraries in Surrey, deprived of specialist or dedicated staff, the collection – paid for by them over the years and including donations of material from local groups – would soon deteriorate and become unusable.


And so they opted in their droves for a third way, much to SCC’s dismay, favouring an independent preferably charitable solution. Councillors, taking note of voters’ wishes, duly despatched officers to find such a solution. But it did not exist ready-made, and so the community created it.


Seven trustees (five from local groups and two from national organisations) formed a new charity – New Surrey Performing Arts Library (NewSPAL) – which has raised pledges for nearly the entire £84,000 needed as transition costs to take over the collection from SCC.


But SCC aren’t giving NewSPAL the chance to do so – for the third time now officers have opted not to bring this matter to the Cabinet for decision. And without a political mandate, the new charity cannot take on premises, convert pledges into actual donations, hire staff – in other words, it is in limbo, unable to progress, unable to turn its community support into community action.


Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on SCC’s budget cuts. So when officers finally bring this matter to Cabinet, they will point to their ‘in-house’ solution as immediately available to save money, and the new charity’s as needing six months’ patience (and therefore a bit more cash from SCC). It is not difficult to see which the councillors will go for.


But why such reluctance towards a user-led charity taking over SPAL when that would both solve the problem on how to preserve this resource and save the associated costs?


The answer lies in the income SPAL generates and which SCC would like to hang on to – whilst eliminating all the costs associated with generating it.


So officers keep pushing back the SCC Cabinet decision – the later Cabinet gets to see proposals, the more they are going to be concerned about their budget shortfall this year, the more likely, therefore, they will be to approve the officers’ in-house plan. Which will be good for officers – but not for users, and not for the performing arts library or the 160,000 Surrey residents annually benefitting from it.


Users from the community have input an enormous amount of effort and pledged tens of thousands of pounds already – and don’t understand why their goodwill and enthusiasm is being trampled on instead of celebrated and supported by SCC.



  1. Write to your councillor, to the Leader of the Council and to the portfolio holder for Libraries (Denise Turner-Stewart) and ask that Surrey County Council Cabinet on 29 May consider this matter and give the mandate to run the performing arts library to NewSPAL
  2. Suggest at the very least that they ask a question of the Cabinet - they can do this up to 23 May
  3. Attend the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 29 May at 2pm in Kingston with as many people as you can muster to register the importance of this issue for you with the Council
  4. We will be issuing T-shirts to everybody who attends to increase visibility of the group of SPAL supporters to Cabinet and to the press


Help create a future for the

Surrey Performing Arts Library


The Surrey Performing Arts Library is an award winning library for the performing arts – one of the three largest in England – currently run as part of Surrey County Council (SCC) Libraries.


It is used by hundreds of music and drama groups in Surrey and beyond, to hire multiple copies of plays and scores, and by individuals to borrow specialist books, music and other resources.


In the face of severe Budget challenges, SCC propose to move the collection in April, splitting it over two or more libraries, and leaving it without specialist staff, to save money.


If that goes ahead, we believe this will quickly lead to the deterioration of the material and ultimately the loss of this great resource.


NewSPAL is a newly formed charity overseen by users for users, offering to take over the running of the performing arts library from SCC to safeguard it for the future.


But it needs your help to get going!


NewSPAL needs to prove to SCC that it has the support of users and that it can raise

pledges of £84,000 and of volunteer time for the transition from SCC to NewSPAL.



  • To get the mandate from SCC at their Cabinet meeting on 27 March, we need pledges of support, money and volunteer time for the transition by 15 March 2018.
  • If we don’t get the mandate at that meeting, we must work towards raising the necessary funding, finding premises and getting support and volunteer backing as soon as possible - desirably by July 2018, with a view to taking on the library as soon as possible after that.

If you value the thriving performing arts in Surrey and beyond...

Please pledge your support

(time, money, premises, expertise…)

and register for updates or contact us

NewSPAL -- The Performing Arts Library in Surrey


The Surrey Performing Arts Library is award winning and one of the three largest in England


Help create a secure future for the Library



Target: To raise £84,000 transition costs


15 March/31 July 2018 - details HERE


Target: To recruit volunteers to help with transition tasks


15 March/31 July 2018 - details HERE


Please see the update on our Home page

Get in Touch


Email: support@newspal.org.uk


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Registered Charity (England and Wales) reg. no. 1176729

Registered address: 41 Chesterfield Grove, London SE22 8RP