Revised proposals for the future of Birmingham’s Community Library service have been drawn up following feedback from citizens during a recent 12-week period of public consultation.
Initial plans for a three-tiered service (with opening hours and staff support reduced in tiers 2 and 3) were put forward as part of the council’s effort to respond to reduced funding from central government and would have seen the libraries at Aston and Sutton closed – reducing annual expenditure by £1.9million by 2018/19.
However, comments and feedback along with potentially up to £150,000 in a one-off funding pledge from Sutton Coldfield Town Council have helped the city council refine its plans all within the reduced finances, the highlights of which are as follows:
- Sutton Coldfield Library to remain open whilst the city council, town council, the Library Lobby campaign group and other organisations work together to see if a long-term sustainable partnership solution can be established for the service
- Aston Library to remain open as a Tier 3 library, with nearby Birchfield to operate as a Tier 2 instead of a Tier 1 facility
- Services at Glebe Farm to be enhanced (from current opening hours of 15 hours per week up to 21 hours per week), with Kents Moat closing (in line with suggestions made by the public during the consultation period)
In addition to this there will be an increase in spend on the book fund (proposed budget of £380,000 against recent year annual spend of £140,000.
The repairs and maintenance fund for libraries will also increase by £50,000 to £145,000 and there will be an investment of £800,000 in new technology to improve self-service facilities for library users.
Staffing numbers will still have to reduce from 112 to 99 full-time equivalents, up from an initially-proposed 88 after the reshaped plans meant it was possible to increase staffing levels in some of the busier libraries.
The plans are due before the council’s Cabinet for discussion and approval on February 14.
Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “When we launched our period of public consultation last year, I made it very clear that this was a genuine consultation through which we wanted to hear any alternative ideas citizens had that would deliver a library service within the financial constraints the council is having to operate under.
“I am delighted by the engagement we have had through our series of public meetings, consultation survey, petitions and other channels. Almost 2,000 formal responses were received, which confirms how well-regard the city’s service is – and by working collaboratively we’ve been able to come up with revised proposals that address our challenges and broadly meet the wishes of partners and citizens.
“We’ve come up with a set of proposals that mean just one of our 37 community libraries will have to close, this being Kents Moat – being demolished anyway as part of the Poolway re-development – which is some achievement given the budget challenge we face through government cuts.
“I thank everyone who took the time to participate. However, our financial challenges are not getting any easier, so I continue to urge potential partners who can assist us further to continue coming forward as we are keen to do everything we can to offer the broadest library service possible in the years ahead.”
The full report to Cabinet can be accessed via this link
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Tier 1 sites (19 in total) would be open for 35 hrs per week, likely to be delivered from the existing sites and have other services (e.g benefits verification) delivered from them too. All will have investment in installing self-service equipment.
Locations: Small Heath, Ward End, Kings Heath, Acocks Green, Sparkhill, South Yardley, Northfield, Balsall Heath, Erdington, Hall Green, Harborne, Mere Green, Handsworth, Kings Norton, Shard End, Quinton, Weoley Castle, Yardley Wood, Sutton Coldfield
- Tier 2 sites (10 in total) 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.
Locations: Birchfield, Walmley, Kingstanding, Perry Common, Frankley, Spring Hill, Boldmere, Druids Heath, Tower Hill, Sheldon
- Tier 2/3 sites (2 in total) would be open for 21 hours per week, but will need the involvement of communities or other organisations to be sustainable.
Locations: Stirchley, Glebe Farm
- Tier 3 sites (5 in total) 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.
Locations: Aston, West Heath, Bartley Green, Bloomsbury, Selly Oak
- A further group (Tier 4) is also proposed, under the heading of Community Initiated Library Services, through which any local scheme that increases access to one of the Society of Chief Librarians’ ‘universal offers (digital, learning, information, reading or health) would be considered for support via a small grants scheme or the city’s Local Innovation Fund. At present there are live discussions with four organisations around Tier 4 provision. Castle Vale Library already operates under such arrangements.
- Two sites (Bloomsbury and West Heath) are temporarily closed, but are proposed for Tier 3 provision solution once operational again.