Birmingham's leader Sir Albert Bore is today set to miss the official opening of the city’s £188 million new library – to attend a climate change conference in Lithuania.
The landmark development has dazzled the critics and is believed to be the largest public library in Europe.
But, while brave teenage education campaigner Malala Yousafzai was due to perform the opening ceremony, the Labour politician was due to be in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius at a meeting of the European Committee for the Regions – a talking shop for continental dignitaries.
His deputy leader Coun Ian Ward, who is directly responsible for library services, was due to fly the flag for the council, at the grand opening alongside the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Coun Mike Leddy.
The schedule for the European Committee meeting showed that Sir Albert could be taking a tour of Vilnius’ largest heat supplier instead of celebrating the library’s opening.
During his previous term as council leader a decade ago, he advanced plans to build the library at Eastside, as a centrepiece for the area’s new park.
But that proposal was scrapped and replaced by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, which ran the authority between 2004 and last year.
A council insider said: “Sir Albert is no fan of the new library and probably preferred to keep out of the way.”
Sir Albert has been a member of the committee of the regions since the 1990s and regularly attends its conferences. A spokeswoman for the leader said: “The engagement has been diaried since late 2012 and was one reason why, recently, Sir Albert met here in Birmingham with the Lithuanian Ambassador to the UK and the Lithuanian Consular representative.
“His deputy, Coun Ian Ward, has been involved in a number of promotional activities in the August run-up to the opening, whilst Sir Albert has been on holiday, and is a member of the new Library of Birmingham Strategic Board.
“It has therefore, been quite appropriate for the Deputy Leader to represent Birmingham City Council at the opening of the new Library of Birmingham, in Sir Albert’s absence.”
The opening was taking place in Centenary Square at 11am.