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Two community libraries to close, but 35 survive, in council cost-cutting plan

Two community libraries to close, but 35 survive, in council cost-cutting plan

🕔10.Oct 2016

Two of Birmingham’s 37 community libraries could close under cost-cutting plans announced by the city council.

Aston and Sutton Coldfield libraries are in line for the chop as the council looks to save £1.9 million.

A three-month consultation launched today sets out a new operating strategy for the libraries and makes it clear that some will have to be partly run by local volunteers if they are to survive.

The consultation document commits the council to “find ways to enhance the library service offer further still” by setting out a new grant system to support groups wishing to set up new schemes to loan books, offer internet access and other services.

The council said that despite the need to make substantial savings targets as a result of reduced central government funding to local authorities, the new proposals include investment in more efficient self-service technology for library users, with the package of proposals enabling 95 per cent of existing libraries in the city to be retained.

Under the plans, each of the community libraries have been graded against a series of 11 criteria and given Tier 1, 2 or 3 status.

  • Tier 1 sites would be open for 35 hrs per week, likely to be delivered from the existing sites and have other services such as benefits verification delivered from them too.
  • Tier 2 sites would be open for 21 hours per week, likely to be delivered from the current library buildings, although options may exist to increase hours of operation by working with partners.
  • Tier 3 sites would be run by community organisations, from either their own premises or via a facility transferred to them by the council. The library service will offer support through a 15-hour worker and the provision of books and investment in self-service equipment.

The proposals, underpinned by the roll out of self-service kiosks, have been in development since 2015, with the council looking at how other local authorities around the country have gone about making savings to library services.

Two sites, Aston and Sutton Coldfield, would close under the plans and 24 jobs would disappear. To offset the closures it is proposed to increase hours at Mere Green library and to increase hours and the level of provision from Tier 2 to Tier 1 at Birchfield library.

Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council said:

This is one of the most difficult consultations we will have to run, but the funding pressures and restrictions we face mean that no change is simply not an option.

We need to look at libraries and how they can best operate in 2016 and beyond with the reduced resource available. The time has come to acknowledge that a one size fits all model isn’t the best way of delivering such a service.

To do this, we are staging a genuine consultation based on plans that have been reviewed by best practice councils that have faced the same issues and expert groups from the library sector.

As a result of ongoing funding reductions from central government, the service currently has a savings target of £1.4 million in 2016/17, rising to £1.95 million next year along with a range of historic pressures, mainly due to premises costs.

Cllr Ward added:

The plans we have put together would keep a robust library service operating over the broadest geographical range possible and give community groups with a passion for libraries a great chance to step up and deliver and shape plans that are relevant for their own local needs.

I cannot stress enough this is a genuine consultation and if anyone has any ideas or offers to work with us, now is the time to let us know.

The exact consultation dates will be finalised once the proposals are approved by the cabinet on October 18.

Tier 1: Acocks Green Library, Balsall Heath Library, Birchfield Library, Erdington Library, Hall Green Library, Handsworth Library, Harborne Library, Kings Heath Library, Kings Norton Library, Mere Green Library, Northfield Library, Quinton Library, Shard End Library, Small Heath Library, South Yardley Library, Sparkhill Library, Yardley Wood Library, Ward End Library, Weoley Castle Library.

Tier 2: Boldmere Library, Druids Heath Library, Frankley Library, Kingstanding Library, Perry Common Library, Sheldon Library, Spring Hill Library, Stirchley Library, Tower Hill Library, Walmley Library.

Tier 3 libraries: Bartley Green Library, Bloomsbury Library, Glebe Farm Library, Kents Moat Library, Selly Oak Library, West Heath Library.

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