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Open Letter to Birmingham City Councillors and Commissioners


June 24, 2024


Dear Birmingham City Councillors, 

Dear Commissioners, 


We are writing on behalf of library users across the city to express concerns regarding the proposed cuts to libraries in Birmingham and the flawed consultation process. The cuts are reckless and will have devastating impacts on our communities for generations to come.


We met with Council Leader John Cotton and Cabinet Member for Digital, Culture, Heritage and Tourism Saima Suleman on June 18 to advocate for the preservation of all of our libraries. During the full council meeting, we submitted petitions signed by thousands of Birmingham residents who stand with us in opposition to these cuts. 


We demand a thorough investigation of the issuance of Birmingham’s Section 114 notice and call for the scrapping of the cuts budget. 


  • Research conducted by the Audit Reform Lab at Sheffield University has revealed that issues with the Oracle IT system, rather than unaudited equal pay liabilities, were the principal reason Birmingham City Council issued a Section 114 notice last year. 

  • All cuts and asset sales should be paused in order for independent public interest and value for money assessments to take place. No such assessment has been undertaken in Birmingham, contrary to other large authorities, eg. Liverpool 2022. Devastating measures are being imposed over a short timescale with no regard for the impact on 1.2 million residents. 

  • There are viable alternatives to the cuts being imposed. Financial analysis by the Audit Reform Lab shows that extending the timeframe from two to four years could reduce cuts by £100 million. 


A network of well-run public libraries is essential in a city with low print and digital literacy and high levels of poverty. 


  • The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 places a duty on local authorities to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service”. Following repeated rounds of cuts to library budgets across the country, we must not allow this statutory duty to be further eroded. Libraries offer extraordinary value, act as a lifelong learning pathway, support health and wellbeing, and are preventative of more expensive problems. 


The current Birmingham City Council Libraries Consultation is not fit for purpose.


  • Birmingham’s community libraries are well-used, beloved institutions. The BCC consultation centres around the specious claim that library use has declined by 45% since 2014 and continues to decline. Freedom of Information data on library use and membership across Birmingham’s libraries shows resilient patterns of use following savage cuts which closed libraries and slashed opening hours in 2015/16 and after the pandemic lockdowns. People responding to the consultation risk basing their answers on a misleading premise.

  • All four options in the consultation involve closing large numbers of libraries and slashing staffing levels, which would disproportionately affect the elderly, people with disabilities, parents/carers of young children, young people, children, and individuals on low incomes. The proposed cuts would exacerbate inequality. 

  • The consultation’s recommended option involves fragmenting our library service by handing over libraries to community groups, while an unspecified number would become council-run “community library hubs” or co-located library services. The proposals are confusing and vague and appear to be unresearched. They do not address whether community-run libraries would form part of the city’s statutory service, how those community-run services would be funded, and how services would be staffed (if at all).


We demand an end to cuts by stealth.


  • We demand an explanation of the announced reduction of library opening hours, with most libraries due to close an extra day a week starting July 22. We consider these closures cuts by stealth.


We implore you to pause the cuts, investigate the irregularities exposed by The Audit Reform Lab, and explore more sustainable and less harmful financial strategies for the people of Birmingham. Our libraries are lifelines and we cannot afford to lose them. 


Sincerely,


Birmingham Loves Libraries



Birmingham Loves Libraries is an umbrella campaign uniting Birmingham Friends of Library groups, Save our Libraries campaigns, and library users and city residents campaigning to protect and champion our libraries and library services.




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