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Sunday closing for Library of Birmingham as council cuts running costs by £1.3m

Sunday closing for Library of Birmingham as council cuts running costs by £1.3m

🕔01.Apr 2015

The Library of Birmingham will be closed on Sundays from April 19 as the city council seeks to save £1.3 million a year in running costs, reports Paul Dale.

Visitors will not be able to get into the library until 11am during weekdays and Saturdays.

The building will close at 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays and at 5pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Situated in Centenary Square, the new library cost £189 million to build and is a replacement for the Central Library at Paradise Forum. It opened in September 2013 to critical acclaim and was praised for its exciting architecture and proof that local authorities could still deliver fine public buildings.

However, it quickly became clear to the incoming city council Labour administration in 2012 that running costs of the library had been severely under-estimated by the former Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition that ran the council for eight years from 2004.

A far higher than expected business rates bill and failure to generate revenue from philanthropic gifts left the council facing a shortfall of almost £2 million.

Labour’s plan to cut the library budget by £1.5 million was scaled back to £1.3 million following protests. As well as severely reduced opening hours about 100 jobs will disappear.

In February council leader Sir Albert Bore warned that further cuts over the next two years were inevitable unless a generous benefactor could be found.

He said the council’s dire financial position – total budget savings of about £250 million have to be identified by 2017-18 on top of £113 million this year – meant the library could not be given special protection.

He raised the prospect of the business community and the private sector helping to fund the library, although plans set out five years ago to raise money through philanthropic contributions have not generated anywhere near the target income.

David Cameron has accused Labour city council leaders of using the library as a “political tool” to make a point about spending cuts.

The Prime Minister told the Birmingham Mail he was “angry” after the council announced plans to cut opening hours from 73 per week to 40.

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