Belfast Telegraph

Staff to lose jobs as library service looks to save £1.4m

By Noel McAdam

Libraries across Northern Ireland are the latest public service to feel the lash of Stormont spending cuts.

Libraries NI is laying off some temporary staff in order to save £1.4m (4.4%) of its budget within the next six months - before the end of the financial year.

It is understood 21 posts have already been identified and the dash for cash will also involve a review of agency cover staff and vacancies not being filled, as well as the prospect of reduced opening hours across the province's 96 libraries.

The review will be rushed through during October with changes being implemented from November 1 onwards to meet the relatively tight March deadline.

"In the interim there may be temporary ad hoc reductions in opening hours in many areas," a statement added.

The DUP pointed out the spending axe was being wielded by a Sinn Fein minister, Culture and Arts chief Caral Ni Chuilin.

Upper Bann MP David Simpson said: "It is ironic that on a day when Gerry Adams is preaching about not accepting cuts, a SF minister is imposing cuts."

He said the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure had required the £1.4m savings, with the possibility that more cuts could follow in a few months.

"Libraries are a vital resource for our communities. In recent years libraries have been proactive in adapting to a changing society and usage figures have reflected this. These cuts, however, will damage the service and cause a loss in usage and ultimately revenue," Mr Simpson warned.

"The greatest step that the DCAL Minister could take would be to ignore the dictates from her party masters in Dublin and get on with implementing the Welfare Reform Bill."

Libraries NI chief Executive Irene Knox said the service had made significant efficiency savings in the last five years and there were limited options left

"I want to apologise to our customers and staff members in advance for any disruption they experience. This situation is extremely difficult," she added.

NIPSA assistant secretary Paddy Mackel said: "Because of the budget cuts, brought about by lack of adequate resources from Westminster to properly fund local public services, library services will now be severely affected.

"Agency staff account for more than 10% of overall staffing levels, undertaking the work of what should be carried out by permanent staff. The network of libraries will not be able to function if 100 staff are removed.

"Our members, already under significant pressure, will not be able to cope with the additional workloads and increased stress."

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