National library organisation sounds alarm over ‘fire sale’ of library buildings

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), a national charity which exists to raise standards in library provision has sounded the alarm over a potential ‘fire sale’ of library buildings following the Government announcement of ‘exceptional financial support’ to 19 Councils[1].

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that 19 councils in England will benefit from an ‘Exceptional Financial Support (EFS)’ framework for the fiscal year 2024-25, totalling around £1.5 billion.

Rather than representing new investment or capital support, the framework allows the Councils involved to use capital receipts from the sale of assets or borrowing to cover their day-to-day costs up to this amount. Additionally, there is further support for capitalisation requests from previous years amounting to £976 million.

Commenting on the announcement, CILIP interim CEO Jo Cornish said,

This ‘exceptional financial support’ announced by Government is in reality nothing of the sort. Instead, central Government is suggesting that cash-strapped Councils should do the equivalent of using their savings (long-term investment budgets) and selling property to cover day-to-day running costs.

This framework creates a material risk that Councils will sell off parts of their property portfolio, including libraries, to address the funding shortfall caused by the withdrawal of central Government grants. We know from our experience supporting library services across the UK, this is a one-way trip – once a library building is sold off, it permanently impairs the life chances and property values of local residents. It’s a one-way deal and very much like using the credit card to pay the mortgage.

We urgently call on central Government to work with Councils to provide long-term sustainable investment to protect local services and halt their decline, including statutory public library provision.

In response to increasing concerns over proposals to reduce or close library services, CILIP has launched the ‘Libraries at Risk Monitor’ – a regularly-updated map of proposed changes to libraries across the UK with an indication of where CILIP and their partner organisation, CILIP in Scotland are intervening to seek better outcomes for local taxpayers (www.cilip.org.uk/libraries-at-risk).


[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptional-financial-support-for-local-authorities-for-2024-25

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