Birmingham City Council has unveiled its proposed budget cuts for 2015-16, including substantial reductions to funding for the Library of Birmingham, the £189 million project that opened in September 2013 and within a year was facing a financial black hole. Weekly opening hours are to be cut from 73 to 40, and around 100 of the 188 staff will lose their jobs.
The Library of Birmingham was overlooked for the Stirling Prize last month in favour of the remodelled Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. But missing out on architectural prizes may be the least of the library’s problems. The Council optimistically budgeted for more than £1 million a year of charitable donations; the shortfall this year could be as much as £713,000. Cuts of £500,000 to the library's services are pencilled in for next year (running costs are around £10 million), with more to follow if the rest of the deficit can't be made up from charity.
I was sitting behind my folding table in the polling station – usually a bingo hall – when I saw the elderly couple come into the sport club's lobby, hesitate and walk through the wrong door into the bar. I hurried across to help them. ‘Excuse me, are you looking to vote?’ ‘No, no. I have a vote but I'm not going to use it this time because I don't agree with these police whatsits. Thanks though.’ ‘They just out for a pint?’ the presiding officer asked when I got back. ‘Yes.’ ‘Can't blame them.’