Poor installation of electric cables over a 30-year period disturbed deadly asbestos in the roof of Sutton Coldfield Library forcing the building’s closure earlier this year, an investigation has shown.
So much work was carried out between 1974 and 2004 that it is impossible now to identify specific contractors responsible for the poor workmanship or to lodge a claim for compensation, the city council inquiry concluded.
Birmingham City Council faces a £1.8 million repair bill to bring the building in the Red Rose shopping precinct back into use.
They have been forced to move the library temporarily to the College Design Centre in Upper Holland Road.
Linda Butler, head of library services for Birmingham, admitted that the absence of council records detailing the installation of data cables for computer equipment made it impossible to bring a compensation claim.
She said an inspection had shown a “substantial amount” of cabling with some of it penetrating asbestos boards.
The council, already under pressure to make massive spending cuts, faces the embarrassment under the terms of a lease agreement of having to continue paying a £33,000 annual rent on the Sutton library even though the building cannot be used by the public.
Local councillor Philip Parkin said he was “baffled” at the failure to discover who was responsible for disturbing the asbestos.
Coun Parkin (Con Sutton Trinity) added: “This is the second most popular library in the city and it is absolutely vital we get it up and running again.
“We have been quoted £1.8 million to put this building right and that sounds an absurdly high figure to me.
“The chances of us getting anywhere near that amount of money at the moment has to be remote.
“My view is that we have to find a way of holding someone accountable for this mess.”
Coun Parkin described the terms of the lease as “ridiculous” and he is urging council lawyers to examine whether it would be possible to get out of the agreement.