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The Library Campaign says Birmingham City Council’s plan to close 25 of its local libraries as part of far-reaching budget cuts would breach the Public Libraries and Museums Act.

The library of Birmingham


A charity supporting libraries has said it intends to challenge the legality of plans to close the majority of libraries in Birmingham.

Last week members of Birmingham City Council approved a series of cuts, thought to be the biggest in local authority history, amid a budget gap of around £300m, after declaring itself effectively bankrupt last September.

The council is proposing to close 25 of the local libraries it owns, leaving 10 facilities for lending books available across the area. While a decision on which libraries will be closed is yet to be made, it has been reported the reduction would leave one library in each of Birmingham’s constituencies.


In an email sent to Arts Professional, the Library Campaign argues that closing 25 libraries would result in a service that is incapable of performing the duty imposed on public library authorities by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and would in turn be a breach of the Human Right Act and Public Sector Equality Duty, part of the Equality Act.

The charity adds that if the council proceeds with the cut, it will make a complaint to DCMS requesting a formal local enquiry is held.

Such inquiries have pressured the reversal of proposed cuts before. In 2009, an enquiry was held into Wirral Council’s plans to close 11 libraries. The council withdrew its proposal just before the enquiry’s findings were published, which concluded the council would have been in breach of the 1964 act had it gone ahead. 

Birmingham Council’s proposed cuts will also see all grants to its regularly funded arts organisations reduced by 50% this year before being completely removed in 2025/26.

Public outcry

The proposed closures, and wider council cuts, have been met with criticism by local residents across Birmingham.

Save Birmingham, a campaign group protesting the cuts, has advised residents wanting to protect their local library to start a petition, set up or join a ‘Friends of’ library group, write to their councillor and MP and register a local library building as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

ACVs, introduced by the Localism Act 2011, allows building or land to be officially registered as something that benefits the local community. Registration means the owner must notify residents of intention to sell and wait at least six months to do so while other avenues are explored.

Meanwhile local press has reported residents are planning ‘resistance’ to the cuts with several Birmingham libraries arranging protests, while numerous online petitions have been launched.

The largest online petition, with more than 6,000 signatures, says “in the midst of a cost of living crisis, surely the council must understand that these spaces are even more precious than ever”.

It continues: “Closing these essential services will affect the most vulnerable in our communities and is certain to affect the education and life chances of young people in some of our city’s most socially deprived areas”.

Following last week’s Spring Budget, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) called on Lord Parkinson, whose DCMS brief includes libraries, to exercise his powers to protect local library services.

“CILIP is calling for a fair funding settlement to local government, allowing for real reinvestment into local services, including libraries,” the statement said.

“The recent Sanderson Review of Public Libraries, which was commissioned by Lord Parkinson, recognised the transformative power of public libraries and called for their recognition and support across government.

“Our ultimate hope is that Lord Parkinson as the minister whose portfolio includes libraries at DCMS will exercise his powers of superintendence as a matter of urgency to prevent a catastrophic loss of services across the nation.”