The Chancellor’s 2019 Spending Round – What does it mean for libraries and where do we go from here?
It was amid much speculation that Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP took to his feet today to deliver his 2019 ‘Spending Round’ announcement. Javid had already signalled that the multi-year Spending Review would need to wait until 2020, but today’s announcement has since taken on greater significance due to the increased likelihood of an imminent General Election. If there is an Election, then any new Government would be held not to this announcement but to the commitments in their Manifestos – which is why its essential to maintain the pressure on library funding in the next few weeks.
It is important to see these commitments for what they are – Election pledges rather than a firm, costed commitment of spend. Some of the measures announced today had actually already been announced, while some of them may still reflect a real-terms reduction in funding relative to inflation. As ever with Governmental spending announcements, the devil is in the detail and only time will tell how much of this money reaches the grassroots where it is desperately needed!
CILIP’s ‘asks’ of Government
In preparation for this announcement, CILIP developed a range of ‘asks’ of Government, which we have been sharing with Parliamentarians as part of our wider lobby for libraries. These included:
- Fair and sustainable funding to the Devolved Nations to ensure that devolved powers are matched by greater fiscal autonomy and sufficient resources;
- Increased funding to Health Education England (HEE) to implement the findings of the independent Topol Review, including increasing the library and knowledge specialist workforce;
- Increased financial support to Local Government, supporting the Local Government Association call for a fair and sustainable funding settlement;
- A long-term improvement in funding to schools, colleges and Universities, enabling learning providers to invest in their library and information professional workforce;
- Improve funding and policy for prisons, ensuring that they address prisoner education through libraries alongside the traditional ‘crime and punishment’ agenda of Government.
We wrote to the Chancellor earlier this week specifically calling on him to recognise the power and impact of local public libraries. Our ‘open letter’ secured more than 1,100 signatures in a single day, in support of our call to HM Treasury to provide up to £50m a year over 5 years to fund a National Public Library Development Plan.
This was a tremendous collective cry for long-term sustainable investment in libraries, and has enabled us to more than double the number of people registered to support libraries through our new platform, Libraries Deliver.
Some wins, many questions
So how did we do? What do today’s announcements mean for libraries?
On the face of it, there are some encouraging signs in the broad themes of the Spending Round. Having previously said that the Government wants to ‘turn the page on austerity’, Javid’s stated ambition in today’s announcement is to increase spending on public services by £13.8bn. As many others have pointed out, it is far from clear where this money would come from and how much of it is new money, but it does at least reflect a growing recognition that the damage of austerity needs to be repaired.
While Javid failed to take the opportunity to ring-fence new development funding for public libraries in this announcement (and don’t worry, the campaign to secure this support very much carries on from here), there are several important opportunities from today’s announcements which – if they are fully-funded and actually implemented - will impact significantly on librarians and information professionals. We have analysed these across the different Departmental sectors:
On the face of it, Local Government is one of the main ‘winners’ from today’s Spending Round. The Chancellors’ promised additional investment of £3.5bn next year should be regarded as a real achievement for the Local Government Association and those of us that supported their lobby for additional investment.
While of course, all such announcements must be caveated with a ‘wait and see how much money there really is’, we should be clear that more investment in local public services is good news for Public Libraries.
CILIP will redouble our efforts to work with the Local Government Association and in consultation with individual Councils to ensure that where there is reinvestment, libraries are the first in line.
Health and Social Care
The Chancellor’s above-the-line commitment to increase funding to Health Education England (HEE) including an additional £150m to fund Continuing Professional Development is welcome (again, if funded and implemented!). This builds on the Topol Review recognition of the need to boost the information professional workforce in Healthcare, which CILIP has already welcomed;
The Spending Round has proposed increase in the Public Health Grant budget, which could allow Local Authorities to invest in cross-sectoral initiatives to promote public health, including through libraries.
The proposed ‘additional’ £1bn directed to Social Care (noting that several commentators have noted the actual shortfall in Social Care funding is closer to £4.4bn), could create opportunities to position public libraries as part of frontline social care provision as well as to recognise the important work of librarians in the 3rd sector and social care providers.
A commitment to invest a further £2.6bn in schools in 2020-21 and £4.8bn in 2021-22 (which if implemented would be an above-inflation increase in school funding) – could create the conditions for CILIP, the CILIP School Libraries Group (SLG) and School Library Association (SLA) to strengthen our call for investment in #GreatSchoolLibraries with trained librarians.
The quite complex proposals to invest a further £400m in Further Education may create opportunities for our sector. While the recognition of the vital role of post-16 education is welcome, there is a genuine concern that funding at this level won’t go very far at all when distributed across colleges. Nevertheless, a healthier funding environment for colleges will also create a healthier climate to advocate for FE librarians, so this is a welcome development overall.
Crime, justice and prisons
Most of the commitments in this area focused on policing and counter-terrorism and the majority of the prison-related reforms are about creating additional capacity to incarcerate people. CILIP and the CILIP Prison Libraries Group have shared our concerns about the lack of investment in Prison Libraries and the fact that staffing shortages elsewhere in prisons mean that many prisoners do not receive their statutory access to a library service.
This was highlighted in a recent Times article, and CILIP will be writing to the Prisons Minister to raise our concerns with them.
The Chancellors commitment to an overall increase of £1.2bn in funding to the Devolved Nations doesn’t go very far in addressing many of the challenges that the Devolved Administrations have been raising with Central Government for the past 2-3 years.
Funding constraints in the Central Government financing to the Devolved Administrations under the Barnett Formula will directly impact on publicly-funded library services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is why it is essential to ensure that CILIP works with our colleagues at CILIP in Scotland, CILIP Cymru Wales, CILIP Ireland and others to develop a case for investment in libraries and information services that is tailored to their specific legislative and political contexts.
The shift to ‘outcomes-based’ budgeting
If you delve into the detail of the costings on today’s announcement you’ll see a marked trend towards what is increasingly called ‘outcomes-based’ budgeting. Rather than looking at budgets strictly in terms of Departments or activities, HM Government and the Civil Service are increasingly looking at investments to deliver outcomes such as improved health or educational attainment.
In theory, this lends itself well to the library lobby. We need to ensure that our advocacy for libraries is focused on the outcomes the current or any future Government is looking to achieve.
Where do we go next?
Today’s announcements are a starter pistol, not a finishing line. While there are some welcome commitments in the Chancellor’s speech (again, they are only welcome if they happen!) there is also every likelihood that these commitments will shortly become Manifesto promises and those are what any incoming Government will be held to.
So we need to keep up the pressure. CILIP has set out a plan of action which includes a campaign of direct engagement with MP’s and the media and we will shortly be calling on members and supporters to work with us on this.
Libraries Deliver has already proved its worth as a platform for coordinated action, and we will continue to build our database of library supporters and activists, ready to press decision-makers for real-terms investment.
Our next step is to work with the Big Issue to publish our Manifesto for Libraries, which sets out our expectations on behalf of librarians, information and knowledge management workers in all sectors.
If you haven’t already signed our letter, registered as a supporter or encouraged your friends to get involved, you can do so on this page. While you are here, please do also consider making a regular donation to help us fight for libraries!