The Developing Successful and Inclusive Communities Green Paper proposes a radical new approach to making cuts claiming that making percentage cuts to the Library budget will not deliver sufficient ‘savings’ in future.
In the previous two years the Community Library service saw its budget cut by 28% with reductions to opening hours, staffing cut by over a third and the supply of books and resources contract.
The £21m budget for the Library service is within the ‘controllable’ spend of the Council which makes it the focus of further cuts.
The District Committees are charged with reducing the portfolio of Council owned buildings in their areas and with integrating local neighbourhood services into shared buildings.
Community Libraries services are to be integrated into ‘holistic neighbourhood hubs’ which will inevitably lead to the closure of Library buildings.
There is a continuing focus on reducing staffing levels and the maximisation of the use of volunteers in the libraries.
This is expressed at its most extreme by the following statement:
we should be looking at ways in which more services can be accessed by individuals without the need to visit council offices and speak to council staff, which is an inefficient and expensive way of providing information.
The Review clearly opens the way to new providers being involved in running the local libraries.
The possibility of Libraries being the subject community asset transfers is raised together with handing over the running of the Housebound Libraries Service to a third sector organisation or to be run by volunteers.
Libraries are to redefined as platforms for ‘delivering outcomes to targeted social groups’, with funding being channelled to areas where there are greater needs for literacy support. This is an attack on the wider ‘social value’ and inclusive character of public libraries.
The Library of Birmingham is being asked to remodel its services to support the outcomes focus of the Community libraries and to provide a ‘technological and wider resource platform’ for the wider library service.
It should be noted that the Cabinet weakened this critical relationship by moving the Library of Birmingham out of Local services into the Culture and Development Directorate.
The responsibility for making decisions on how to cut the Community Library services will fall on the ten District Committees in the City. The Green Paper is highly prescriptive in how decisions should be made and offers detailed guidance on how the Districts should to prioritise local services and the criteria for making decisions on which services should be cut and closed.
Jolyon Jones for the Friends of Birmingham’s Libraries commented
It is a cynical political manipulation to have announced this Green Paper and its proposals for library closures a month after the opening of the new Library. Bore and Ward knew what was coming and delayed this Green Paper. In our thousands we celebrated the opening of the new Library, people are passionate about their Libraries. Now it is time for the citizens of Birmingham to stand up for local libraries and against the cuts.
There is a ‘consultation’ period for the Green Paper which closes on the 15th November 2013.
The Green Paper can be found here:
Please contact the Friends of Birmingham’s Libraries: