Sir Albert Bore was greeted at last nights Budget consultation meeting by a big ‘Save our libraries’ banner held aloft by some UNISON librarians and joined by members of the Birmingham libraries campaign.
The City Council is currently consulting over £90m of proposed budget cuts for 2014-15 which could lead to 1,000 job loses.
The threat of cuts to the library service has been raised at both consultation meetings so far. The Council is now claiming there will be no closures this year but they will be unavoidable for 2015-16.
On Tuesday evening questions were asked about the proposed cuts of £1.65m to the Library of Birmingham which includes reductions to the Home and Mobile library services and to the book fund.
The Cabinet member, Cllr Ian Ward responded by stating that there was an immediate £1m pressure for the Library of Birmingham of which £66k had been found from building efficiencies.
The ‘savings’ so far identified for the LoB only constitute £300k of the total of £1.65m cut identified in the draft budget. Cllr Ward said there had been a meeting of the LoB Development Trust that morning to discuss how they might raise the remaining £1.35m.
The Budget White paper raises the prospect of a reduction in opening times to the newly opened library and a review of the ‘operational arrangements’ of the library.
The emphasis shifted on Wednesday with questioning about the Community Libraries.
Cllr Ward was asked how the Council would meet its statutory duty to ‘provide a comprehensive and improving library service’ when decisions about the future of the Community libraries had been devolved down to ten District Committees
In response Cllr Ward stated that although there was a statutory duty for a Council to provide a comprehensive library service there was no effective case law as to what this meant.
He referred to Newcastle Council making the decision to close all it Branch libraries upon the basis that providing a single central library met the duty, this is to be tested in court.
Ward said he was unaware of any plans at District level to close any community libraries, but that any decisions would be reviewed centrally by himself.
The key libraries issue looks increasingly like the financial sustainability of the new LoB.
There are two further Public consultation meetings taking place so please come and have your say about our Public libraries.
Thursday 12 December, 6pm – 8pm, Nishkam Centre, Handsworth
Wednesday 18 December, 6pm – 8pm, Bournville College, Longbridg