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Union chief slams MLAs over fresh library cuts

By Noel McAdam

Politicians should be "ashamed" of a new round of cuts facing libraries, a trade union leader said yesterday.

Paddy Mackel blamed the measures, which will see opening hours reduced, on the failure to restore the Assembly and said MLAs appeared to care little for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society.

Libraries NI is already dealing with a £1.5m reduction of its budget in the current financial year, on top of earlier bet-tightening initiatives.

The fresh round of cuts will mean fewer staff and fewer new books, even though library usage, particularly among young people, appears to be increasing.

Mr Mackel, assistant secretary of the NIPSA union, said: "Once again, we see the reality of the impact of political failure reaching into the heart of the local community.

"When political parties fail to agree, refuse to respect each other and ignore the rights of citizens to be treated equally, it is always ordinary workers, their families and the most vulnerable who suffer.

"With almost half of all children and young people using libraries, as well as one in four adults, a significant number of migrant workers, pensioners and those citizens living in communities of multiple deprivation, political failure hits these people the hardest."

There have been reports that Libraries NI will spread the cuts across all its operations, meaning up to £500,000 less may be spent on books and other stock. Staffing costs could also be squeezed by £650,000.

"It will not be possible to maintain the current pattern of opening hours consistently, and ad hoc closures are likely to occur across the network of libraries," Libraries NI said.

The organisation's chairman, Prof Bernard Cullen, added: "I am asking library users to bear with us during this financially difficult time.

"This is not a position that the board wants to be in, but one positive is that the current spending proposals are reversible and can be adjusted if and when new funding becomes available."

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