Dudley Council cuts: Library hours to be reduced across borough
Opening hours will be reduced at libraries across the Dudley borough under new proposals for the future running of the service, as council cuts continue to bite.
Many libraries will also become single staffed under the proposals that have been put forward by Dudley Council bosses.
Cuts would also be made to opening hours at the borough's archives centre in Dudley as part of the plans.
Councillors have been advised to approve a plan to establish a Libraries, Archives and Learning Mutual, which would involve the services being run by council employees, independent of the council itself. Councillors and volunteers will also be invited to get on board.
If the model gets the nod, the changes would begin to come into force from next April, with single staffing to be introduced to all libraries during mornings apart from main libraries in Dudley, Brierley Hill, Stourbridge and Halesowen.
Then, from April 2017 library opening hours would be reduced. More than 200 hours a week will be lost from libraries across the borough under the plans.
Dudley's archives centre, which only opened in 2013 at a cost of £6 million, would also have its weekly opening hours slashed from 41 and a half to 30 and a half.
There would also be increased focus on customer self-service under the new model to decrease the need for as many staff.
Council bosses said the impact on services will be much less severe under the mutual model than if they were to remain solely in council control. They predict that the services will grow under the new model while saving the authority money at the same time.
Councillor Rachel Harris, cabinet member responsible for libraries and archives said: "As a community council we are committed to delivering high quality services to our existing customers and at the same time providing opportunities to widen access to community services.
"An employee-led mutual creates opportunities to deliver professionally-led services supported by the community in a way that local people can be proud of."
The latest revelations come in the same week that it was announced Dudley Museum and Art Gallery is to close, up to 275 council jobs are to go and council tax is to rise as the authority seeks to make massive £20 million savings over three years.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the opposition Conservative Group in Dudley, said he supported the idea of a mutual model but that it did not necessarily mean opening hours needed to be cut.
He said: "It shouldn't be the decision of the council to reduce opening hours of the services, it should be the decision of whoever is running library provision.
"The council should set up the new delivery model and then hand it over and let them decide how to run it. It has worked with other authorities and my guess is that library services could be run better this way.
"They have just spent millions of pounds on a new archives building and it seems madness to reduce hours."
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