William Eichler 09 December 2015

Future of council-run libraries under threat after £50m slashed from budgets

Funding for council-run libraries was slashed by £50m over the last year bringing into question their long-term sustainability, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

CIPFA’s annual survey revealed that the total expenditure for UK library services fell by £50m in one year; from £0.99bn (2013-14) to £0.94bn (2014-15). It also learnt the number of libraries fell from 4,023 (2013-14) to 3,917 (2014-15).

Other findings included a drop in the number of visits; from 276m (2013-14) to 265m (2014-15). There was also a 3.8% decline in FTE paid library staff.

The survey did, however, record an 18.7% increase in volunteer numbers.

The results of the survey confirm a trend of steady decline since 2010. Gross expenditure, according to CIPFA, has been reduced by more than £180m (16%) over the course of the last Parliament. Over the same period, visits have fallen by 13.6%.

Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of CIPFA, said: ‘Once more, our annual library survey makes for grim reading. Cost cutting measures continue to hit unprotected services hard and fewer people are using public libraries.

'Yet there is some hope. Volunteer numbers have nearly doubled over the past five years. Tens of thousands of people are now giving their time to make sure these precious resources survive.’

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