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Pleas to spare Liverpool libraries from closure

Report details running costs with Childwall topping list at £305k a year

Written by . Published on September 10th 2014.

Pleas to spare Liverpool libraries from closure

THE latest chapter into the saga of Liverpool’s closure-threatened branch libraries will be  played out tonight (Wednesday, Sept 10) at a crucial meeting of the city’s culture select committee.

The council wants to shut the book on up to 11 of the 18 libraries as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise. The current proposals, as revealed by Liverpool Confidential, would result in no libraries whatsoever in North Liverpool. 

A mixture of community groups, housing associations and other organisations has already come forward, offering to rescue and run some of the threatened facilities.

The meeting, starting at 5pm at Liverpool Town Hall, is expected to be dominated by the future of the service.

Being presented at the meeting today is a report detailing the running costs of every individual branch library in the city.

From the most expensive to run (Childwall at £305,000 in the past year) - to the cheapest (Lee Valley at £146,666), the chart reveals the wages bill, rents, and other costings for each library.

It points to a multi-million pound cost to the cash-strapped council every year,  with the budget slashed year-by-year into the future.

The problem for the city is that there is no legal obligation to run  city-wide network of branch libraries at all, to comply with what the Government lays down, and Mayor Anderson has already warned Government grants in the coming years will not even cover the costs of services the city legally has to provide. In other words, something has to give, and the protected services take priority.

That will not convince the official opposition Green Party, and others who are expected to plead for the library service to be spared. Liverpool’s Green Party leader, Cllr John Coyne, will be calling on the culture committee to explore all options to redirect funding into front line library services.  He wants the committee, all 90 ward councillors and Mayor Anderson to agree to dedicate money from the Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund and the Leader's Fund over the current and the following two years to save library services.

Mayor Anderson has already stated that the £1.7m of the Neighbourhood Fund was for local schemes for the community, and the proposal would not be feasible, and in any event the fund was not available year on year.

Annual running costs of each library



Childwall £305,019, Parklands Speke ££288,304, Allerton £271,162, Norris Green £260,292, Toxteth £241,273, Kensington £226, 462, Spellow £223,685, Dovecot £223,543, West Derby £205,999, Sefton Park £202,638, Breck Road £188,275, Garston £171,548, Wavertree £170,486, Old Swan £169,067, Walton £167,105, Fazakerley £156,924, Lee Valley £146,666.
Read the full breakdown here



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39 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Shirley BurnhamSeptember 10th 2014.

"The problem for the city is that there is no legal obligation to run a public library service at all" That is incorrect. The relevant legislation states : "It shall be the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof" -- General duty of library authorities, Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. I trust your article will be duly amended before the disinformation that I have identified is, in error, accepted as fact! Thank you.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 10th 2014.

but do you have to have a library authority?

John BraceSeptember 10th 2014.

Sorry to slightly contradict you, but doesn't Liverpool City Council have a legal duty under s.7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 c.75 to "provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof" ? It was threatening to close public libraries this side of the water a few years ago that led to the then Secretary of State intervening and launching a public inquiry led by Sue Charteris into whether the closure plans breached this legal duty. In the end the public inquiry found against the Council and the libraries (despite a budget passed removing their funding) were kept open, all 24 of them. Admittedly this year they are consulting on a budget option to change the opening hours (reducing them to save costs) rather than outright closure.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BraceSeptember 10th 2014.

Just to clarify from sentence two onwards I'm referring to the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, not Liverpool City Council as on reflection I have been unclear.

Laura SwaffieldSeptember 10th 2014.

It is really, really scary if the council really, really does not know it has a clear legal duty to run a library service. Such a council won't know either how useful a resource it is - for doing the council's own priority work in education, health etc etc etc...

RamseySeptember 10th 2014.

"...the chart reveals the wages bill, rents, and other costings for each library." Forgive a completely ignorant question. To whom does the council pay rent on council property?

17 Responses: Reply To This...
MacdonaldSeptember 10th 2014.

Hear hear! And those costs are roughly equivalent to the salaries of Council senior managers. Sack a few. They are dispensible. Libraries are not.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Ramsey. Hope the new book is comming along. The detail in the report is even worse. Sefton Park library is paying £9k for security patrols. Even though it has no security guard. It is paying more than £15k for cleaning. It is open for 4 days a week and isn't cleaned for more than 2 hours a day. That's £38 per cleaning hour. Someone is getting rich off that and it isn't the cleaner. Childwall's £12k cleaning charge looks equally suspect. How is the council paying £1200 per year for each rusty, juddering PC? How are libraries without a public toilet paying for a sanitation charge?

RamseySeptember 11th 2014.


AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

The numbers of staff in each branch. Wow. A library like Lee Valley is described as having 3.4 full-time equivalent posts. With only 4 days a week that is 4 and a quarter staff per day. Has anyone ever seen 4 staff in Lee Valley library? Only Breck Road and Fazakerley seem to be reporting the same numer of staff as actually work there. Will redeployment be found for the library assistants, cleaners and security guards who only exist on paper after the real staff have been axed?

Mrs. MoppSeptember 12th 2014.

Has the cleaning been "outsourced" to some provate sector cowboys paying the minimum wage to the people who do the actual work whilst watching their bank account swell with public money? This has been happening a lot in public services.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

The one cleaner I have spoken to confirms she is paid minimum wage. I calculate she accounts for a third of her library's cleaning budget. I won't disclose which one for her benefit. The rest of that money is being wasted (from my point of view as a library user and council tax payer). None of the staff could explain the difference between how many staff are there (according to the council) and are there in person.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2014.

Well that'll do for me, a cast iron case backed up by irrefutable evidence from a large sample of completely unbiased sources, what next sherlock?

Katie54September 14th 2014.

These costings are idiotic - quite apart from the fact that not paying rent to itself saves the Council no money whatsoever (and the same goes for the rates - because it's not as if there are businesses queuing up to occupy these buildings is it?), they seem to have been worked out on the back of an envelope. The costs of running my local library "West Derby" (it's in Tuebrook, but never mind) are a perfect example. It's a couple of years old, and is very small - the ground floor of a purpose built "learning resource centre" on the edge of the West Derby School site. Built to replace two libraries - one of which the listed Carnegie library in Lister Drive, it opened two years ago. It was supposed originally to be both floors, but somehow or other the school managed to grab the first floor. The accounts state that the sum payable as LCC Rates - LCC Occupier, is £29,555.25. But if you check the value of the whole building on the Valuation Agency website, and calculate the rates using the figure given on the Council website, the amount due is £20,003. For the whole building. So the rates alone are overstated by around £20K, and that's just for starters. There is £4422.66 for grounds maintenance. It doesn't have any grounds. £10,064.68 for security force patrols - when it's part of a new purpose built campus, with shared security. And £19,752.84 for building repairs and maintenance - for a brand new building. Just to put it in perspective, the corresponding amounts for Old Swan - an old refurbished building in a similar area are £236 for grounds, £380 for security and £7840 for repairs and maintenance. This is just one example, I imagine there are plenty of other inconsistencies in the figures for other libraries. We all understand the need for cuts, but how about actually trying to cut these ridiculous costs before they actually cut the services. If the idiots who came up with these ridiculous figures aren't able to do that, or worse, don't even seem to have thought of it, then they are the ones who should be cut, not the libraries.

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2014.

Lost the will to live after the first line Katie, sorry, I tried

Katie54September 14th 2014.

I know - without paragraphs it's pretty indigestible. They were there, originally, but somehow or other they disappeared.

Lister DriveSeptember 14th 2014.

Well I read all of it and found it just as fascinating as Larry's figures. Tell me, Katie, do LDL have the maintenance contract on these computers that cost £1200 a year each to service? I thinks we should be told.

Katie54September 14th 2014.

Yes, they do. And they run the information system that generated the figures. And of course McElhinney is also responsible for premises etc. (I can't remember the exact title, but it is one of his responsibilities, according to one or other of the Council organisation charts), and so will presumably oversee some of the other cost centres. So LDL not only costs a fortune, but is in many respects really crap at what it is paid to do.

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2014.

Well said Katie. This is great information. I've been working on this report today too. What do you think of the reported staffing levels? As West Derby library is only open 4 days a week 3.7 full time equivalent posts is enough to provide 4 staff each day. Have you ever seen 4 staff working in West Derby library? If this is the quality of the information they are willing to show us how about the information about usage and income they haven't shown us?

Katie54September 15th 2014.

Thanks. I've actually never seen more than 2 people working there - so to arrive at the published figures they must be adding in central management/admin, cleaning, maintenance etc. And the new book figures are nicely rounded, aren't they? They won't be what was actually spent, so could we please know how much they actually did spend last year, for each library? They've also been highly selective, and downright misleading, about my area and users at any rate. As I mentioned, the library isn't in West Derby, it's on West Derby Road, in Tuebrook, where over three quarters of neighbourhoods are in the 10% most deprived in the country, and 11.4% are in the 1% most deprived. Yet they state there is higher than average access to a car, implying everyone can just drive to some other unspecified library any time they want, or jump on a non-existent bus to Norris Green library. And there are two groups that do not generally have access to cars - old people and children. Some 1,450 children in the ward (38.4%) are classed as living in poverty (higher than the city‚Äźwide rate and almost double the national average) - what other access will they have to books and computers? Most children start using libraries when they are in junior school - and start to be a bit more independent by going to the local library after school with their friends. That won't be possible now. And as for old people, the council clearly think they don't need any community space at all, no reference material, no need to browse and choose books and, of course, no access to computers.

AnonymousSeptember 15th 2014.

You might like this one Katie. Wavertree library was built in the 1900's for £6000. Apparently it devalued by £19,738.66. By this neat trick of devaluing buildings by more than they are worth the council has put a £350k hole in the library finances. Enough for at least one library. With the added bonus they will be able to sell the library to their mates for £1 and leave the council with a capital gain. I assume this breaches no rules. Also I add the rates paid by libraries up to £266k, enough to save another library.

Katie54September 16th 2014.

Yes - £266k that won't be saved, because it isn't really a cost in the first place, as the Council allocates this to the Libraries budget, and then takes it back in council tax. This typifies the whole approach. Back of an envelope, as I said above. In the real world, faced with the need to make cuts from this budget, the first thing you do is check out the individual items and see if there is a way of reducing them, one by one. Changing suppliers, reducing levels of service, whatever. For some libraries, the cost of security, grounds maintenance, cleaning and building maintenance are far higher than others. Why? Can't these be reduced? The same thing applies, of course, to my particular bugbear, LDL. £1200 per year per computer is daylight robbery, and always has been, and the council could and should have threatened to go elsewhere for this supply - the contract with LDL is not exclusive. They may well respond that they can't reduce any of these costs because of contracts with the various suppliers, but if that is the case they won't be able to just terminate the contracts - there will be costs involved. As there will be costs, both human and financial, in making redundant the 33 people whose jobs will go. The fact that none of this appears to have been considered in the report tells us that the officers who wrote this rubbish are treating both elected members and Liverpool residents with total contempt - they can't be bothered to put the information in to the report because they think the proposal will be rubber stamped or, worse, that they didn't do things properly and thoroughly because they're incompetent. Perhaps we should all consider the fact that paying someone lots of money doesn't guarantee that they know what they're doing - and judging from this piece of rubbish, they don't. They aren't worth it. If they worked in the private sector, they'd be out the door before they bankrupted the company.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2014.

Yet another mystery. £1.65M is to be saved via branch libraries. Cost of branches under threat £2.08M.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2014.

So in 1964 a library service was written into legislation, that does not mean that 50 years later we still need the same service. The internet and cheaper online books sales from the likes on amazon must have had an impact. I think what needed isn't just the cost of running librarys but some statistics on their usage, are they busier than ever or quieter? do we still need as many as we have to provide an accessible service? could a mobile library spending half its time in one location and half in another meet demand and save money? Its wrong that everyone is focused on the bottom line and not on the service that people now require.

8 Responses: Reply To This...
LiverpudlianSeptember 10th 2014.

The Internet does not lend books, it sells them. Proper books (the sort of thing people need to seek out) are still expensive (even on Amazon) though you can of course pick up bestseller tripe cheaply in supermarkets. Many library services are provided free of charge on-line so counting the number of people physically visiting libraries is misleading. Needless to say these useful reference services are usually subscription-only so would be unavailable to private citizens on normal incomes if the libraries did not provide them. Amazon dodges taxes. It would be unethical to use them for public services or to encourage the public to use them. In any case, libraries are not booksellers and they offer so much more than booksellers, not least the expertise of qualified librarians to help with research.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2014.

Yes I get all that I'm saying is there any actual research to prove that and show us what the city really needs.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2014.

Hi Anon. You ask some good questions. Last year the libraries issued over 1.2 million items which suggests they are still in use. There is some very good reasearch on the value of library use on the DCMS website. The amzon impact is partly negative but also positive. Some readers use amazon's reviews to assist borrowing decisions for example. In my opinion the libraries I use have become a lot quieter since 4-day opening started in 2012 but I too would like to see more data. A mobile library would be a brilliant idea. When you look at how much rents and suchlike are costing the service is seems mobile libraries to be a sensible way forward. As for the bottom line I don't think there is enough focus on this. How has the council agreed to spend £1200 per year on each PC for example? For more research on this subject you might want to look at The Reading Agency. It's interesting when you see library use graphed against time you can see a fairly level use over time prior to the financial crisis, then use plumets when austerity comes in and services begin to get cut.

LiverpudlianSeptember 13th 2014.

It isn’t surprising that attendances have fallen since opening hours have been restricted. If one has been accustomed to a basic public service that was open six days a week it is hard to adjust to complex timetables of opening hours. Particularly if one lives two miles away as Uncle Joe thinks is acceptable; two miles is a forty-minute brisk walk for a fit and healthy adult – I doubt Joe could manage it. Particularly lugging library books, only to find when you have got there that the place is closed. Now also consider this for children and the elderly for whom the bother of getting there is multiplied several times. A travelling library seems a reasonable suggestion, but it is unlikely to find room for Renaissance drama, mediaeval poetry or Philosophy amongst the Dan Browns in its cramped little van, is it?

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2014.

More good points Liverpudlian. My theory is Uncle thinks everyone drives. Hence the emphasis on scrapping bus lanes, cheap parking and a branch library within driving distance with space to park your car. You may not know this but teenagers up to age 17 can reserve books for free. A mobile service point, no matter how small, gives them access to the loan stock of Central library without paying Arriva a penny. And why a pokey van? Why not a Winnebago or a double decker? You can sure, thanks to Uncle, there will be somewhere to park it.

LiverpudlianSeptember 14th 2014.

My concern is that the library buildings that are part of the community, are local landmarks and frequently the only decent building in the area are priceless civic assets will disappear once they are closed. Sold off to a developer or demolished. For some reason it is considered acceptable to sell off library buildings to "social entrepreneurs".

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2014.

No come back to that point mate.

Stan ButlerSeptember 15th 2014.

People never pay Arriva a penny - their minimum fare is two hundred pannies.

Christopher PipeSeptember 11th 2014.

Efficient service: Showing the cost of each branch without showing size of population served, number of active users, range of activities organised, breadth of stock etc. means we cannot judge cost-effectiveness of the branches. Comprehensive service: if users cannot access libraries because of inconvenient opening hours or difficulty/cost of travel, how does this constitute a comprehensive service?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 13th 2014.

Good points Christopher. Since 2012 the residents of Walton and Speke who have day-jobs already know what it is like to have no library service.

RaystarSeptember 14th 2014.

Informative, useful article - and informed comments. Shocking news - what can we do?

1 Response: Reply To This...
LiverpudlianSeptember 15th 2014.

Katie54 for elected Mayor for a start.

Editorial elfSeptember 15th 2014.

The full breakdown of the costings is here tinyurl.com/nve9hj9…

Slightly FoxedSeptember 19th 2014.

Libraries aren't quiet because they are "underused" - they are quiet because they are LIBRARIES.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 21st 2014.

That is a good point. It is hard to tell why libraries aren't used more than they are, because the council neglected to ask anyone. They only consulted library users. Recieved wisdom is Amazon is killing the library, but until you ask, no one knows if it is opening hours, stock selection, etc.

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