The Cabinet member responsible for the new Library of Birmingham has conceded that the new Strategic Management Board is unrepresentative of the people of Birmingham and needs to be more inclusive. The Board has recently been set up by the Council to lead the development of the new Library into the future.
Cllr Ian Ward conceded that it should include seats for library users and will urgently consider ways to appoint them to the Board. This concession was an apparent victory for the Friends of the Library of Birmingham who had been challenging the composition of the Board.
The idea of user representation was originally dismissed by Sir Albert Bore at July’s cabinet meeting, claiming that it was unnecessary as one of the Councillors sitting on the Board of eleven had a library ticket!
The move came at a meeting held last week between Cllr Ian Ward and campaigners from the Friends of the Library of Birmingham. The meeting with Cllr Ward took place in response to a request from the Library campaign to ‘call in’ the Cabinet decision to set up the strategic management board.
The Library Campaign has sought to challenge the composition of the new Management Board due to the presence and weight of business representation upon it. Five of eleven seats are reserved to ‘five Library of Birmingham Development Trustees with connections to Birmingham businesses’.
The Development Trust was set up as a charitable body to draw in funding for the Library which would not be directly available to the Council. Trustees have been appointed to the Development Trust with a businsess background and include a member of the Birmingham Post ‘Rich list’ and the CEO of Aston Villa.
The Friends group wrote to Sir Albert Bore before the Cabinet decision objecting that ‘the selection of trustees with such a narrow range of business interests and ethnic backgrounds cannot take forward an inclusive vision of the Library of Birmingham as a cultural resource for all of the citizens of Birmingham.”
The Library campaign requested a scrutiny call-in to investigate the recruitment of the ‘Great and the Good’ to the Development Board to consider possible discriminatory bias. The call-in was refused.
During last weeks meeting Cllr Ward claimed that the Trustees sitting on Library of Birmingham Development Trust had been appointed under the previous Council administration and he could not explain how they had been selected.
But that business people had been deliberately appointed to provide ‘traction in drawing in the money for Library’. Cllr Ward conceded that it was open to question as to how successful the ‘great and the good’ had been in attracting new funding.
The campaigners expressed their concern that the Board might in future propose a future procurement to outsource the Library.
Cllr Ward accepted that the Board could recommend a privatisation but that the decision lay with the Council. He advised such a decision would be ‘hugely controversial’ due in part to the possibility that a private contractor could successfully bid for contract through an open procurement process.
The Friends of the LoB concluded by saying they wanted an unequivocal answer from Sir Albert Bore to the question ‘Can you give a commitment that the Library of Birmingham will remain publicly run and publicly owned for the forseeable future?’ The question which was originally asked at the July Council meeting by a member of the public and followed up in writing, has not yet been answered by Sir Albert.
A spokeperson from the campaign commented “The fundamental facts havent changed, the Mangement Board remains packed with private business people. We will continue to campaign for a ‘citizen-led’ Library with professional leadership from qualified librarians.”
Stand up for Public Libraries in Birmingham
As the Library of Birmingham gears up for its ‘Grand opening’ on 3rd September the Library campaign is preparing for an Autumn of activity
Join us for the following activities:
31st August – Street stall from 11am to 1pm outside the ‘old’ Central Library
3rd September – Street stall in Centenary Square during the opening day
Our next meeting will take place on 29th August at 7pm at The ICC cafe area and is open to all who support our campaign aims.
Please contact and get involved with the Friends of the Library of Birmingham:
E-mail @ firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Like’ our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheLoB
And ‘follow’ us on Twitter @FoLoB_