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Godsiff’s campaign against Library of Birmingham cuts falls on deaf ears

Godsiff’s campaign against Library of Birmingham cuts falls on deaf ears

🕔26.Jan 2015

An attempt by Hall Green Labour MP Roger Godsiff to gather parliamentary support for a campaign against controversial cuts to opening hours and staffing levels at the Library of Birmingham appears to have fizzled out.

Only five of Mr Godsiff’s fellow Labour MPs, mainly left-wingers, are backing a House of Commons Early Day Motion condemning a £1.5 million cut to the library’s budget and the loss of 100 jobs.

And none of the five represent Birmingham constituencies.

The seven other Birmingham MPs – Steve McCabe, Khalid Mahmood, Richard Burden, Shabana Mahmood, Gisela Stuart, Liam Byrne and Jack Dromey – had not signed Mr Godsiff’s EDM a week after it was tabled.

However, the motion has been amended by Birmingham’s sole Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming.

Mr Hemming (Yardley) wants to change some of the wording in Mr Godsiff’s motion to “regret the financial errors” of the Labour Government between 2005 and 2008 which he says hit the public sector badly. He also claims that Birmingham city council faces further spending cuts whether the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour are in power.

Mr Hemming’s amendment “strongly supports the attempt to find alternative ways to keep the library open” and adds that “local libraries are important facilities not to be ignored.”

Birmingham’s Labour council leaders say they regret putting forward a plan to cut £1.5 million from the library’s operating budget but have no alternative after running costs were badly under-estimated and income levels over-estimated.

The Centenary Square building which opened in September 2013 and cost £188 million to build was conceived and built by Birmingham council’s former Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, which lost power to Labour in 2012.

It is projected to be about £2 million in the red this year. Running costs including heating, power and business rates are £1 million a year more than anticipated, while income through sponsorship is £1 million a year less than predicted.

A 40 per cent cut in opening hours, from 73 to 40, and 100 of the 188 library staff can expect to lose their jobs.

The proposal has sparked a vociferous campaign of opposition spearheaded by Friends of the Library of Birmingham which plans to hold a demonstration outside the building on February 7, which is National Library Day.

A petition urging the council to cancel the library cuts has attracted 5,000 signatures.

Mr Godsiff’s EDM “notes with great concern the plans to severely cut the funding available to the Library of Birmingham, which would result in the loss of more than half of the library’s staff and many of its services, including the loss of archive and research facilities.”

It blames the Government for slashing local government grant and imposing an “disproportionately heavy share of spending cuts” on Birmingham council.

It adds that the people of Birmingham should not “have their library services destroyed in an attempt to cut a deficit that was caused by paying for the gambling debts of bankers”.

Mr Godsiff’s motion goes on to encourage the Government to take “serious and concerted action to reclaim for the exchequer the many billions of public funds which are currently lost to corporate tax avoidance; strongly supports the attempt to find alternate ways to keep the library open and maintain it as a centre of excellence, and wishes this campaign every success; believes that the whole of the UK would be the poorer without its world-class libraries, which play a vital role in education and research; and calls on the Government to urgently reconsider its ongoing slashing of local government funding.”

Mr Godsiff’s EDM has been signed by: Ronnie Campbell (Lab Blythe Valley), Jeremy Corbyn (Lab Islington North), Mike Hancock (Ind Portsmouth South), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab Luton North), John McDonnell (Lab Hayes and Harlington) and Valerie Vaz (Lab Walsall South), John Pugh (Lib Dem) Southport. Mr Hemming’s amendment is supported by Mark Hunter (Lib Dem Cheadle).

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