Spending on local libraries in the UK falls by £25m.

December 15, 2016 | By | Reply More

Funding for local libraries took another hit in 2015/16, as cash-strapped councils across England, Scotland and Wales cut funds by £25m last year, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy reported this week (the story made national news headlines here in the UK).

Spending on local libraries in the UK falls by £25m.

Spending on local libraries in the UK falls by £25m.

Figures from the Institute’s annual library survey revealed that the British council-run services have also experienced a decline in visitors, with 15 million fewer visits in 2015/16 compared with the previous year.

Key findings include:

  • Number of libraries fell by 1.7% year on year, from 3,917 (2014/15) to 3,850 (2015/16).
  • Total visits dropped 5.5%, from 265 million (2014/5) to 250 million (2015/16).
  • Total expenditure for Great Britain library services fell by £25m, from £944m (2014/15) to £919m (2015/16).
  • FTE paid library staff fell by 5.3% between 2014/15 and 2015/16, from 18,028 to 17,064. Volunteer numbers rose by 7.5% during the period, from 41,402 to 44,501.

Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA, said, “This fall in library funding comes at a time of unprecedented budgetary pressures for local councils. In this climate really tough decisions are having to be made about all sorts of services and libraries are just one of the services bearing the brunt. But despite the grim outlook, libraries are continuing to transform and innovate, adapting to changing visitor habits and providing a raft of new services and offerings.”

Last week, the government’s Libraries Taskforce pledged £4m to support disadvantaged communities through libraries and urged councils to consider libraries when delivering other public services. Birmingham Library, which is the most visited library in the country (1.6m visitors in 2015/16), already offers adult learning facilities, immigration advice services and supplements its funding through private hiring of some of its facilities.

The CIPFA survey also collects data for regional library use.

The top five most visited libraries across England, Scotland and Wales over the last year were:

  1. Library of Birmingham, Birmingham: 1,602,070 visits.
  2. Central Library, Manchester: 1,480,941 visits.
  3. Wembley, Brent: 1,381,032 visits.
  4. Norfolk & Norwich Millennium, Norfolk: 1,25,291 visits.
  5. Woolwich, Greenwich: 1,135,774 visits.

In terms of book or other loans, the top five libraries over the last year were:

  1. Norfolk & Norwich Millennium, Norfolk: 984,445.
  2. The Hive Worcester, Worcestershire: 827,061.
  3. Llanelli, Carmarthenshire: 555,712.
  4. Cambridge Central, Cambridgeshire: 501,594.
  5. Oxford Central, Oxfordshire: 462,536.

This year’s findings echo a five-year trend of decline. Libraries across Great Britain have seen a 14% reduction in total net expenditure, from £979m in 2011/12 to £842m in 2015/16. Meanwhile, there has also been 16.2% fewer visitors in five years, from 299 million in 2011/12 to 250 million in 2015/16.


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I have been working as a full-time author publishing fantasy and science fiction novels for HarperCollins for the last seven years.

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