Birmingham faces £2m library cuts

Birmingham faces £2m library cuts

Libraries across Birmingham face closure as the city looks to slash £2m from its library budget, with even the flagship Library of Birmingham facing heavy cuts.

A white paper issued by Birmingham City Council outlining more than £87m of cuts needed across its budget in 2014/15 shows that £1.65m will be cut from the central library service and the Library of Birmingham. The book fund will be reduced by £50,000, the mobile library service will have its number of stops cut by a third, and the Library Service at Home will be reduced by a fifth. The council will also stop providing funding for events and exhibitions at the Library of Birmingham, saving £150,000.

The white paper said that "further changes to the Library's operating arrangements" may be necessary in future. It said: "It will be necessary to keep progress under review and consider contingency plans, including reducing the opening hours or further reducing the services yet provided."

The library was opened to great fanfare in September 2013, with activist Malala Youzafsai officially opening the £183m building. Director Brian Gambles said the library, which was approved for construction before the financial crisis hit, was: "a library that will serve the needs of the city for decades, perhaps centuries. It is well worth the money."

In addition to cuts to the Library of Birmingham, the city's ten district committees are also looking to make cuts of more than £400,000. Birmingham Libraries Campaign, an umbrella group of library campaign organisations in the city, has collated the information from each district, showing that libraries in Aston, Springhill, West Heath and Wylde Green all face permanent closure unless volunteers or community groups can take them on.

Several other libraries will see hours reduced, have their book fund cut, and see staff lose their jobs.

Jolyon Jones, a spokesman for campaign group Friends of the Library of Birmingham, told the Birmingham Mail that politics was influencing which areas were impacted the most. He said: "It seems that the more marginal the constituency, the more protected the library service. We are pleased to see that in Hall Green and Edgbaston there are no cuts proposed. But in Ladywood the Labour committee has put two libraries under threat.”

Council deputy leader Ian Ward responded: "The budget settlement from Government has been exceptionally tough. Districts are doing what they can to protect library services."

A final decision on the library cuts will be made in February as part of the 2014/15 budget setting process.