Before the 2012 local elections, the capital (£545,000) to replace the ageing West Heath library had been allocated by the coalition administration. But after taking power, the new Labour Council froze capital spending (in December 2012) and the new one was consequently not built.
A few months later the capital spending was unfrozen by the Council, but shortly afterwards re-frozen by the local Northfield district. They said locally that there would not be sufficient revenue funding to run it, even if it were to be built.
A longstanding West Heath library users group was boosted by local Communities Against the Cuts activists at the beginning of 2014. Working together, there followed a string of joint campaigning activities; street stalls, petitioning, attendance at consultation meetings and ward committees, a public meeting called by the campaign, then a rally outside of the library in the summer. This rally drew 120 local people to hear campaigners, Councillors and library users debate out the issue. It is fair to say that the mood of the people was so strong that depressing hints about a replacement for the old library being shoe-horned into some other building with unpaid workers, and that the current site had been sold off, were cast aside; there was a promise to rebuild it on the site of the old one.
This rally was addressed by many speakers; the local councillors, library users and supporters (young and old), Birmingham NUT, Communities Against the Cuts supporters and others.
To make the point even more strongly, a few weeks’ later Communities Against the Cuts and local campaigners organised a demonstration around West Heath, culminating in another rally by the library. Once, again, local Councillors were given time to explain their views as well as others who went on the march.
As a result of all this lobbying and campaigning, at a subsequent Northfield Ward committee the lead Councillor announced that the new library would be built on the current site in the New Year (2015), and that sufficient revenue funding had been found.
So, on the face of it, a breakthrough had been achieved.
At the November meeting of the Northfield Ward Committee, it was announced that there was a Council project officer now working on the case, that the old library would be demolished in February and that hoardings would be erected around it which would display information to local residents about developments with the new library.
However, it was not confirmed that the revenue spending obtained would cover properly paid and fully qualified librarians. So, there has been a little slippage, but things appear to be moving forward.
For more details of the campaigning activity and photos, go to http://communitiesagainstthecuts.com/