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Council cuts blamed as Library of Birmingham trust wound up

The Library of Birmingham Development Trust has been axed following a series of financial blows for the city’s top attraction

The Library of Birmingham Development Trust was established to raise money for the library

Trustees claim council cuts made it impossible to attract more private funding into the Library of Birmingham after its charity arm was wound up.

As the Mail revealed last week, the Library of Birmingham Development Trust, established by Lord Whitby to boost its income, has been axed following a series of financial blows for the city’s top attraction.

The trust, which was wound up at a meeting on Tuesday, was established by then council leader Mike Whitby with plans to raise more than £2 million a year – although never got near those lofty heights.

Trustee Randall Brew, the Conservative councillor who took over from Lord Whitby on the board, said swingeing cuts to the library – which have seen around half of staff axed – made it hard for the trust to attract philanthropists.

Comment: Library of Birmingham might be unworkable - but that's no reason not to try

Coun Brew said: “We have had substantial donations but not enough.

“When the city council started imposing the cuts, the private philanthropy dried up. People just felt they were paying for the cuts.”

He added: “I think it needs a more permanent solution. I have been made aware, by talking to colleagues in the library service, that libraries in Europe and the US get a lot more philanthropy than we get.

“It was one of the top 10 visitor attractions in the country last year and it is a major draw for the city.”

Projected fundraising levels from the trust always fell short, leading to former Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore scrapping plans to hand over control to it.

Meanwhile, the running costs of the library continue to be a major burden to the authority.

Lord Whitby was the man behind the Library of Birmingham
Lord Whitby is 'saddened' by the prospect of cuts at the Library of Birmingham

Running the Library of Birmingham costs close to £2 million a month – more than half of which is down to interest payments on the £187 million build.

More than half of 188 members of staff were axed as a result of cuts in 2014 which saw its opening hours reduced to 40 a week.

The trustees said in a statement: “It is with regret that the trustees of the Library of Birmingham Trust have taken the decision to wind up the activities of the charity.

“Major fundraising for the ambitions of the trust within Birmingham has proved difficult with a number of barriers to delivery.

“As the situation continues to be unfavourable, trustees can no longer justify the expense of operating the trust with little prospect of income to offset these costs.

“Trustees are currently in the process of deciding how to disperse the remaining funds, in line with the trust’s original charitable objects.”

The council has focused on repurposing the library to offset mammoth costs.

The most important was moving the Brasshouse Language Centre to the library, has turned around its fortunes slightly, as it is now open 12 hours a day Monday to Friday.

However, its core function remains heavily reduced yet Birmingham City Council will continue to pay a heavy cost for decades to cover the construction costs.



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