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Council cuts to the Library of Birmingham destroyed other income

Trustees claim Birmingham City Council cuts made it impossible to attract more private funding into the Library of Birmingham after its charity arm was axed

The Library of Birmingham has struggled to attract funding, according to trustees

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

The Library of Birmingham Development Trust, which was wound up at a meeting this week, was established by then council leader Mike Whitby with plans to raise more than £2 million a year – though never hit that.

Trustee Randall Brew, the Conservative councillor who took over from Lord Whitby on the board, said huge cuts to the library made it hard for the trust to attract philanthropists.

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.

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 year.

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

The most important was moving the Brasshouse Language Centre to the library , which 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.

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