Bore claims that the Council has to retrench and only provide services that are required by law, non-statutory services will therefore have to be closed or handed over to other bodies to run them.
The idea of volunteer run services has already appeared in the ‘Inclusive Communities’ Green Paper, which was published by the Council and raises the possibility that some Community Libraries could be transferred to local community groups to be run on a voluntary basis.
The Green Paper also proposes a reduction in the number of Council buildings across the city and that local information services, including libraries, are consolidated into neighbourhood hubs. This opens the real prospect that some of the existing 38 Community Libraries in the city will close.
The Library campaign is really concerned about how these Green Paper proposals will impact on the City’s Library services. The local libraries have already been hit by significant cuts in the last two financial years following the implementation of a ‘future operating model’ resulting in a third of the staff being made redundant and cuts in opening hours.
These proposal’s will make a bad situation worse for our library service and here are our nine reasons why they should be opposed:
1. The Library service is a statutory service. The library services defined in the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act must be “a comprehensive and efficient” service to all who wish to make use of it.
2. Libraries have developed as a universal service open to all individuals in all communities across the city. This provides a good basis from which to support people with literacy needs. We must defend universalism in principle and practice as the basis for ‘social inclusion’.
3. The track record of volunteer run libraries in other parts of the country points to the development of a two tier library service leading to increasingly patchy provision. Volunteer run libraries are difficult to sustain in the long run and there is high turn over of volunteers.
4. Handing over libraries to other providers is inefficient and costly. Each new community library provider will incur significant extra overhead and infrastructural costs in employing workers, deploying volunteers and running a service. The efficiencies and benefits of running a city wide public service are lost.
5. Volunteering is an option for some not all and is more likely in communities where individuals have more income, wealth and free time. Handing services over to volunteers will entrench rather than remove inequality.
6. We have seen that where public services are handed over to faith groups an element of exclusivity is introduced and this is not compatible with serving multi-faith and multi-cultural populations.
7. Libraries need to be led by employed qualified librarians not volunteers. The knowledge and skills of qualified librarians are critical to ensuring the quality of library services and the experience of library users, and to effective public engagement.
8. We can afford to repair our Community libraries and their current disrepair should not be a reason for closures. If the City can afford the £7m+ per annum on capital charges towards the cost of the new Library of Birmingham then the total repair bill for the City’s community libraries of £4m should be affordable.
9. Closing libraries is a false economy, libraries produce more value to the local community than is taken up by their cost. All recent studies have shown a payment return ration of between 1.4 to 4 times. If Libraries are closed this added vale will be lost to the economy and local communities.
The consultation for the ‘Inclusive Communities’ Green Paper ends on 15th November, next Friday.
We do not believe the Council will listen to these views but want to develop a wider argument of why these cuts should be opposed as part of a developing campaign to oppose library closures.
The Library campaign has produced the following draft response and we are asking for your ideas and suggestions to add to our final response.At Tuesday’s Council meeting Sir Albert issued his call for the citizens of Birmingham to come forward and to volunteer to run local public services that otherwise will be closed as a result of future budget cuts.