Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Walsall Council Budget – New Invention Library,

by Ian Shires on 24 February, 2017

Image result for walsall librariesBack in October last year Walsall Council only had sufficient funding to keep one library open and that was the Central Library next to the Council House in Walsall. Things were so bad back then that there were proposals to close both the History Centre and the Leather Museum and incorporate them into the Central Library as well. On top of all that the New Art Gallery funding was to be reduced threatening its very existence as well.

Move on three months during which time members of the public and user groups have made their comments and suggestions, and the Labour/LibDem Cabinet members have investigated ways of doing things differently, making what funding we have in the face of the cuts in support councils get from Central Government and things look a bit brighter.

The Council still needs to spend £86 million less over the next four years due to cuts in its funding, but by working with partners, in particular the voluntary sector, and by cutting red tape we have been able to find sufficient funding to ensure that not only do we have Walsall’s Central Library but we have been able to ensure that a library exists in each of the District Centres. So Willenhall, Darlaston, Bloxwich, Brownhills and Aldridge will be able to keep their libraries open.

Unfortunately the budget is still £1.8 million short of the current cost of keeping all libraries open. That means that there are nine smaller libraries which can’t be kept open after the end of June and that includes our library up at The Square, New Invention.

On the bright side I have had a number of people come forward to say that they are interested in keeping the building open and developing a community run Hub and they are busy now trying to attract funding and other like minded people who would like to help develop not only the old library space on the ground floor but the acres of empty space upstairs.

It’s early days yet but something really good could come out of all this and the beauty of all this is that it’s driven entirely by members of our community. It’s not going to be easy but then things worth having never are. If you want to help, have special skills which would help others then let me know via one of the contact buttons above.

   3 Comments

3 Responses

  1. Jim Smith says:

    I was pleased to read you harbour some hope that New Invention Library can be kept operational and I appreciate
    the fact you had to vote the way you did in the Budget deliberations because of the Council’s legal obligation to arrive at a balanced Budget. You will know we are
    endeavouring to agree a system for Streetly Library which will allow it to operate at a substantially reduced cost to the Council but on the other hand we cannot be complacent. The future,as ever, is unpredictable,
    Regards Jim Smith

    • Ian Shires says:

      You are right about not being complacent. There will be all sorts of claims from opposition Councillors about how they faught to keep certain libraries open. Truth is the joint administration listened to what people said during the consultation, took note of workable suggestions and through prudent money management and by adopting new ways of working we were able to create enough “head room” to keep more libraries open than the budget could support originally. I wish you good look and don’t take your eye off the ball.
      As far as New Invention Library is concerned there have been meetings with a steering group drawn from across the area in order to find ways of turning the site into a “Hive” of activity….

  2. Jim Smith says:

    Best of luck Ian Jim Smith

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