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Library lifeline deal: ‘No spin intended, there’s a meeting in the diary’, insists council

Library lifeline deal: ‘No spin intended, there’s a meeting in the diary’, insists council

🕔08.Jan 2015

Campaigners against devastating cuts at the Library of Birmingham were delighted when they attended a city council meeting to be told that a possible rescue deal was in sight. 

Having faced a barrage of critical questions from the public and been accused of acting in a high-handed and cavalier fashion, cabinet member Penny Holbrook attempted to disarm her critics by announcing that “conversations” had begun about the possibility of the LoB forming a partnership with the British Library.

If the deal came off, a planned £1.5 million budget reduction at the Centenary Square library might be scaled back, she claimed. Cllr Holbrook was backed up by council leader Sir Albert Bore who said the Government was keen that the British Library should have a regional presence outside of London.

Details of the proposal were hurriedly released to the media by the council with Cllr Holbrook describing the British Library proposal as “an interesting idea” which could help counter planned cuts in opening hours and job losses at the Library of Birmingham.

It didn’t take long for the real story to emerge.

The council was forced to admit that it hadn’t actually spoken to the British Library about a partnership deal and the idea is in the “very, very early stages”. The conversations referred to were internally in the council and with the Lord Lieutenant for the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy, who is intent on brokering a deal with the British Library.

It quickly emerged that the British Library knew nothing about a partnership deal.

A spokesman said: “The British Library has not been approached regarding these ideas.”

Asked whether the Holbrook-Bore announcement was a true reflection of events, a council spokesman explained: “What we said was that we were exploring this idea. We didn’t say that talks had started. It was not a grand attempt at spin.”

The spokesman added that a meeting between the council and the British Library to explore the possibility of a partnership “is definitely in the diary”.

Any lifeline deal with the British Library would have to be hammered out in record time. The council’s controlling Labour group meets to finalise the 2015-16 budget in the middle of February and appears to be on course to approve a £1.5 million cut in Library of Birmingham spending.

That would mean a 40 per cent reduction in opening hours and the loss of 100 jobs.

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