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Report shows 127 UK libraries closed last year

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has found that 127 libraries closed in the UK last year and a continued decline in overall spending and staff levels, according to a report on the organisation’s annual library survey.

Spending by local councils on libraries has fallen by £30 million to a total of £741 million (A$52m to A$1.2bn) and has declined by 12% over the last four years. The number of paid staff has fallen every year since 2010, with the service losing 712 full time employees this year alone.

The closures of 127 libraries across England, Scotland and Wales this year, makes a total of 579 library closures since austerity measures began in 2012.

CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman said, ‘Libraries have faced significant cuts under austerity, with councils forced to reduce spending on all “non-essential” services across the board.’

The survey showed 51,394 volunteers putting in 1,780,843 hours over the past year, as libraries rely on the passion of community members to keep the service alive. ‘A lack of funds is forcing many councils to get creative in how they deliver their services, and we find in our public libraries this loss of paid employees is creating a reliance on volunteers,’ said Whiteman.

Visitor numbers dropped by 10 million to a total of 233 million visitors, however the top three libraries received in excess of 1 million visitors over the past year.

In the 2016/17 survey, CIPFA found that total expenditure on council-run libraries fell by £66m ($A114m), paid staff numbers fell by 5% (869), member visits fell by 3% and the total number of libraries fell by 105.

 

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