Cllr Penny Holbrook, Cabinet Member for Skills, Learning and Culture, has issued the following statement after the publication of the council’s budget white paper for 2015/16:
Cllr Holbrook said: “It is with a heavy heart that we go out to consultation on budget cuts for the Library of Birmingham, that could impact on opening hours, staffing numbers and the variety of services offered.
“We are proud of the building and the warm welcome it has received locally, nationally and internationally since opening in September 2013. However, the financial position of the library leaves us with no other feasible option but to put forward these proposals.
“It is important the public understand the pressures we face from the costs of building the library. We face a debt charge of £1million every month as we pay off the bill to develop the building – this is £12million per year, which is £2million more than the annual operating costs to run the library.
“In fact, the debt charge is annually equivalent to the council’s entire budget for economic development (planning, regeneration and skills). This is clearly unsustainable.
“We will concentrate on delivering the core library service from the building (archives, research, lending and literacy) and seek other sources of external funding to try and continue other aspects of what we deliver from it, including business support.
“It must also be remembered the library was commissioned by the council’s previous administration, and it has been well documented that the decision to proceed with the project was taken a matter of weeks before the global financial crisis which has triggered the period of austerity the council now faces.
“In terms of community libraries, any final decisions will be a matter for the council’s ten district committees as part of the budget consultation process. Any final decisions will be taken with full regard to the statutory commitments we have to deliver a library service.
“The only area of council business protected from cuts is children’s safeguarding, for well-documented reasons, which means all other areas are having to feel the impact of the central government funding reductions the council is facing.
“I know it will be difficult for residents and hardworking staff at all of our libraries to accept what we have announced today but we will make every effort to minimise the impact for all concerned.”