FUNDING for public libraries has been cut by £25 million in the last year, amid mass closures of branches and job losses.
Library campaigners slammed the cuts yesterday as “iniquitous and a false economy” following the survey by accountancy body Cipfa.
Local council funding was slashed by 40 per cent under the Tories between 2015-16, the research revealed.
Sixty-seven libraries closed in England, Scotland and Wales, with visits to libraries dramatically decreasing by 15 million, in that time.
Cipfa, also revealed the impact of funding cuts on library jobs, as the number of full-time equivalent staff fell from 18,028 to 17,064 — a loss of 5.3 per cent.
Increasingly, local authorities are relying on the recruitment of volunteers to run library branches. The number of unpaid volunteers rose by 7.5 per cent, totalling 44,501.
Library campaigner Shirley Burnham told the Star: “One of the best national library networks in the world is being deliberately destroyed, not by its staff — nor by those who rely on the service — but by those who wield power and budgets in town halls and those who have deliberately denied them funds.
“Nothing should stand in the way of this government pulling out all the stops to raise our literacy levels.
“It beggars belief that our illiteracy crisis is exacerbated by government while the costs of it, in billions, to our economy will only grow.”
Despite financial pressures, the Library of Birmingham was the busiest in 2015-16 with more than 1.6m visits while Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library had the most loans, with 984,445 books or other items borrowed.