Libraries told to balance the books by making cuts

Most of the Capital’s libraries will see their opening hours slashed and none will open their doors on a Sunday under radical changes unveiled by council chiefs.

Late opening hours on a Thursday evening will also be axed, while the smallest libraries will only open for five days a week under the measures, which are part of a £550,000 saving due to be found next year.

However, Saturday opening hours will be extended across the board, with all libraries opening at 10am and closing at either 5pm for the larger facilities or 4pm for smaller venues.

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A public consultation is expected to get under way later this week on the measures, with any changes due to come into force at the beginning of next year.

The changed hours are part of a wider revamp of the way that the city’s 26 libraries operate, with more of a focus on use of technology and the internet.

But the changes have led to fears that more people will be unable to use the libraries.

Councillor Gordon Munro, culture and leisure spokesman for the Labour group on the city council, said: “This is a direct consequence of the administration’s budget in February and this consultation going out will just be papering over the cracks of that decision.

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“One of the most popularly used libraries is McDonald Road on a Sunday and this allows people that work Monday-Friday the chance to access the facility that is only normally open when they are at work, so the community will be vexed to lose that. The impact of this is a diminished service. I fear for the impact on user numbers of restricted hours.”

Six libraries that currently open on Sundays will be reduced to a six day week: Muirhouse, Newington, Oxgangs, Portobello, Wester Hailes and McDonald Road. Among the libraries that will now close on Thursdays as well as Sundays are Balerno, Balgreen, Colinton, Gilmerton, Granton, Ratho and South Queensferry.

The changes will allow the council to save £550,000 in staffing costs, which will be found as a result of using fewer temporary workers and agency staff. Vacancies created through staff retiring or accepting voluntary severance deals will also not be filled.

The £550,000 saving is lower than the £1.5 million cut to library budgets that was originally proposed by council officials but rejected by Liberal Democrat/SNP councillors because it would have led to the closure of at least one library.

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Councillor Deidre Brock, the city’s culture and leisure leader, said: “All local authorities are having to make big savings just now, and we are no exception. But unlike some areas, we have not closed, and will not close, any of our libraries.

“On the contrary, we’re opening more, integrating library services within community facilities to give greater flexibility and make best use of resources.”