£66m spending drop on public libraries in a year

A new survey has shown that the local government funding squeeze is taking its toll on libraries with total expenditure on council-run libraries fell by £66 million.

The CIPFA annual library survey revealed that, as well as the drop in expenditure, paid staff and branches declined again last year for the seventh year running. Paid staff numbers fell by five per cent (869) and there are now 105 fewer libraries.

On a more positive note, CIPFA also record visitor figures and highlight that the Library of Birmingham, run by Birmingham City Council, was the most visited library in 2016/17, attracting 1,601,520 visitors. Following the Library of Birmingham, the top five visited libraries also included Central Manchester, run by Manchester City Council (1,474,655), Wembley Library, run by Brent Council (1,389,199), Woolwich Centre Library, run by Greenwich Council (1,187,332) and Croydon Central Library, run Croydon Council (941,282).

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, said: “Cuts in local authority funding are forcing councils to make difficult choices about which services they can afford. Unfortunately for libraries and library users, this is a low-hanging fruit that continues to be picked. But, it isn’t all doom and gloom, as libraries are continuing to modernise while volunteer numbers have increased, proving that libraries remain an important community asset. But, to really ensure that libraries are able to thrive, local authorities need adequate and sustainable levels of funding.”

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