Being a board member

The role of a Suffolk Libraries Board member

The Board is ultimately responsible for the decisions and actions of Suffolk Libraries.  As a Board member, you will need to assure yourself that everyone acting in the organisation’s name is complying with the board’s directions and the requirements of law or regulation.

The Board should provide direction, leadership and oversight and thus supports the management of the service which is carried out by the paid staff led by the Chief Executive.

Overview of the role:

  1. Set and maintain vision, mission and values 
  1. Develop strategy. The Suffolk Libraries board is responsible for establishing the essential purpose or mission of Suffolk Libraries.  They are also responsible for guarding its vision and values.  Together, the Board, the Chief Executive and the Senior Leadership Team develop the long-term strategy. 
  1. Establish and monitor policies. The Board oversees policies to govern organisational activity.  These cover:
  • Guidance for staff
  • Systems for reporting and monitoring
  • An ethical framework for everyone connected with the organisation
  • Conduct of trustees and board business

4. Set up employment procedures. The Board sets comprehensive, fair and legal HR policies for the management to apply.  These protect the organisation and those who work for it.  They cover:

  • Recruitment
  • Support
  • Appraisal
  • Remuneration
  • Discipline
  1. Ensure compliance with the IPS Rules. The IPS Rules (along with the Standing Orders) govern the organisation.  The board, with the assistance of the Compliance Manager, ensures these are followed. 
  1. Ensure accountability. The board ensures that the organisation is accountable, as required by law, to:
  • The Charity Commission
  • The Inland Revenue
  • Customs and Excise

The Board also needs to make certain that Suffolk Libraries is accountable to Suffolk County Council, Friends Groups, donors, beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, and the general public.  This means publishing annual reports and accounts and communicating effectively. 

  1. Ensure compliance with the law. The Board must ensure that systems are in place to ensure that all Suffolk Libraries activities are legal. 
  1. Maintain proper fiscal oversight. The Board is responsible for effectively managing Suffolk Libraries resources so it can meet the requirements of SCC and its charitable objects. It:
  • Secures sufficient resources to fulfil the mission
  • Monitors spending
  • Approves the annual financial statement and budget
  • Provides insurance to protect the organisation from liability
  • Seeks to minimise risk
  • Ensures legal compliance 
  1. Select, manage and support the Chief Executive. The Board creates policy covering the employment of the Chief Executive.  It selects and supports the Chief Executive and reviews his or her performance.  The Chief Executive is an ex-officio member of the Board. 
  1. Respect the role of staff. The Board recognises and respects that the responsibility for staff is with the management of Suffolk Libraries, led by the Chief Executive.  At the same time, it creates the strategy and the policies to guide staff activities and safeguard the interests Suffolk Libraries. 
  1. Maintain effective board performance
  • Productive meetings
  • High standards of trustee conduct
  • Effective committees with adequate resources
  • Development activities
  • Recruitment and induction processes
  • Regular performance reviews
  • Partnership with consultants where necessary 
  1. Promote the organisation. Through its own behaviour, governance oversight and activities on behalf of Suffolk Libraries the Board enhances and protects the reputation of Suffolk Libraries.  Board members are good ambassadors.
  1. Practical Requirements. Board and Committee meetings are held across Suffolk on alternate months and last on average 2 hours.  Typically, each Board member will be asked to contribute towards a specific area of responsibility, (examples include staffing, finance, governance, health & safety) reflecting the requirement of Suffolk Libraries and the Board members skills and experience.  Board members may also be required to attend other meetings as necessary, depending on areas of responsibility. There is also an expectation that emails are regularly monitored by Board members, to ensure clear and timely communication and decision making.