Libraries play crucial role in communities | Letter

The peers John Bird and Graham Tope and the MP Gill Furniss call for library funding to be put on on a long-term, sustainable footing in the forthcoming budget

We were heartily encouraged by David Barnett’s article on Bradford council’s proposal to allocate part of its health and wellbeing budget to reducing the cuts to its libraries (Bradford puts money on libraries to boost city’s health, 17 February).

In October last year we hosted in parliament the launch of the report Public Libraries: The Case for Support, prepared by the libraries’ organisation Cilip and The Big Issue Group. It evidences the crucial role libraries play in our communities, from health and wellbeing through to education, business support and digital skills.

Bradford council’s proposal chimes in neatly with this recognition of the crucial, wide-ranging role libraries play in our communities.

But surely councils should not have to raid other parts of their budget to stop library closures, however “lateral thinking” this might be.

In The Case for Support, we called for funding for libraries to be restored to pre-austerity levels, and we are delighted that Libraries Deliver is orchestrating an End Libraries Austerity petition to be delivered to No 10 later this month – we urge people to visit the Libraries Deliver website and add their names.

The forthcoming budget is surely the ideal opportunity to put library funding on a long-term, sustainable footing.

Rishi Sunak endorsed the message that libraries are an essential part of our community when he was local government minister 18 months ago. Now that he is chancellor, we do hope he’ll deliver.
John Bird
Crossbencher, House of Lords
Graham Tope
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
Gill Furniss MP
Labour, Sheffield Brightside
All-party parliamentary group for libraries

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