Castle Vale Tenants and Residents Alliance is a resident-led, not-for-profit organisation providing advice and support to around 30,000 residents each year in some of the most excluded communities in East Birmingham.
“It’s no secret that library services everywhere are under pressure as local authorities try to make savings in the face of budget cuts across all services,” says Ray Goodwin, Chief Executive of Castle Vale TRA. “Birmingham is no exception and in early 2014 we could foresee the closure of our own Castle Vale Library at Spitfire House, where we are co-located.
“In areas like Castle Vale, libraries are an essential service so we started to have honest conversations with the council to find a way through. Although we had no experience whatsoever of running a library, we put forward the idea of bringing it into community ownership – a win-win situation for all parties.”
“It’s never been done before but there’s always a first” – this neatly captures how we, Birmingham City Council and other partners all felt on the matter. It was the start of an incredible campaign for which we gained widespread support and encouragement from residents, senior politicians, officers, local community groups and funders.
Castle Vale TRA proceeded to successfully submit a grant application to the Social Investment Business and secured the funds needed to work up the business case for the asset transfer proposal.
“The business plan was necessary to demonstrate our ability to take on the library and transform it into a viable community enterprise. Having worked with Development in Social Enterprise previously we had complete trust in their expertise and skills to guide us through this complex process and develop a solid business case which would stand up to due diligence.”
“DISE began by undertaking detailed stakeholder consultation to help us arrive at a shared vision for the library which involved facilitating workshops, analysing community and market research and using the findings to write the business and financial plan, working very closely with us every step of the way.
“It was a highly collaborative process which gave us a business plan that passed in-depth scrutiny by Birmingham City Council.
“We really valued the after care support from DISE as they continued to attend critical meetings long after they were contracted to do so. This level of commitment from consultants is rare to find.”
The good news came in September 2014, within just six months of the initial discussions to protect the service.
“The library is now the final stages of being transferred to us a community asset and we are extremely proud of what has been achieved so far. The people of Castle Vale deserve a good library service and we are going to turn it into the best library in Birmingham.”
The library will soon launch as Tyburn Community Library and Learning Centre and the first employee has already been recruited.
“A community librarian and development manager has been appointed to implement the business plan and create a vibrant community centre which in addition to library services will incorporate a community café, clubs, groups and the hire of facilities. We are also looking forward to inducting our first volunteers and hosting a number of Talent Match placements.”