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Library of Birmingham, parks and care services cut in crushing council budget

About 100 of the Library’s 188 staff will go as opening hours are cut from 73 to 40 per week and extra services for the public are stopped

The Library of Birmingham
The Library of Birmingham

Just over a year after the £188 million Library of Birmingham opened to public, more than half the staff are bracing themselves for redundancy following budget cuts.

About 100 of the Library’s 188 staff will go as opening hours are cut from 73 to 40 per week and extra services for the public are stopped.

Unions have pointed the finger of blame at the Government .

Birmingham City Council bosses have targeted the new library, the arts and events and parks and playing fields, care services, cemeteries and children’s services in a package of £72 million cuts for 2015/16 which goes out to public consultation until mid-January.

A total of 1,100 full-time equivalent jobs will go across the local authority, with thousands more expected in future years.

Labour council bosses pointed out that the library costs a massive £10 million a year to run on top of £12 million a year repayments on the construction loan – which is more than the city’s entire economic development and planning budget.

Therefore the library, which was developed by the previous Tory-Lib Dem administration, is baring one of the largest cuts.

Cabinet member for culture Coun Penny 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.

“There is a huge burden of debt on the library service, so we have to stop doing some things. But core functions of the library such as archives, research, literacy and loans will be maintained.”

Community libraries are at risk, although details of which will close or be contracted out will be settled during consultation, and more and events like the St Patrick’s Day Parade, Eid Mela and Birmingham Pride will have subsidies removed - leaving them self-sufficient.

While a range of care services, such as sheltered housing, will be contracted out. While services for those with physical disabilities will be cut by 50 per cent from 2016 – using next year to plan changes.

Meanwhile the council is hoping to boost income by charging for parking in parks such as Cannon Hill, Perry Park, Lickey Hills and extending charges at Sutton Park. On and off street parking charges will also be reviewed and businesses such as market stall holders and users of the trade waste service will see their fees increase.

Maintenance of bowling greens will be abandoned and 20 per cent of council football and cricket pitches will be cut – with some offered to sports clubs to maintain.

Up to 33 unused school playing fields will be disposed of – either to community sports groups or to developers.

Only the struggling child protection service will get a funding boost with an extra £19 million going in on the recommendation of Department for Education commissioner Lord Warner.

The level of cuts would also have been much higher but for a refinancing of the council’s debt to put off repayments for 20 years, leaving an extra £58 million in the kitty, plus a further £37 million being drawn from a reserve pot.

While some accounting changes around school building investment and PFI payments will save £12 million.

But after four years of what is known as ‘salami slicing’ of services to meet budget cuts, the council is now looking at actively stopping services – starting with those which may be picked up by community organisations or the market.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said: “It’s been a difficult budget to deliver, we’ve managed to draw on resources we have been able to create for ourselves to help us reduce the level of cuts we are making.

“But we are making cuts and not just about reducing service delivery, but stopping altogether some provision we have made.”

And he issued a further warning for the years ahead: “The cuts we have envisaged for 16/17 and 17/18 will be greater.”

Budget 2015/16

Total savings: £206 million

Debt rescheduling: £58 million

Use of reserves: £37.5 million

Increase in children’s services funding £19.9 million

Savings already in place: £36.8 million

Leaving new cuts of: £72 million



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