Library hours cut

LIBRARY opening times in Saffron Walden are to be slashed by 13 hours a week as cash-strapped Essex County Council battles to balance its books.

The library is to also share a manager with Harlow in a set of proposals designed to save the council �4 million over two years.

The county council cabinet is meeting next week to agree the plans to cut the opening hours across the county’s 73 static libraries by 16 per cent – from 2652 to 2232 hours per week – which, once approved and implemented, will achieve yearly savings of �857,000.

A consultation process is being launched to seek residents’ views over the pattern of opening hours.

Cabinet member for Heritage, Culture and the Arts, Cllr Jeremy Lucas, who has responsibility for libraries, said: “We want to offer our customers the opportunity to express their preference for the pattern of opening that best suits their needs.

“Essex Libraries have already taken a number of steps to reduce the net cost of the service but these are not sufficient in themselves to make all the required savings.

“The approach we have adopted is flexible enough to offer the opportunity of extending opening hours again wherever we can introduce further revenue-producing arrangements with other organisations.”

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But the opening hours are not the only effects to the service - a review of staffing levels, mobile library routes and a reduction in the stock resource fund is also underway.

A reduction in the mobile library service – which will continue to travel to all its destinations but with 11 instead of 12 operational vehicle – will trim �106,000 per year while an 8.5 per cent drop in the stock resource fund will save a further �250,000.

A review of staff levels, capacity and need could deliver �744,000 savings – impacting on 21 posts.

• This opening hours consultation will run for six weeks from February 14 until March 27. Customers can register their preferred option by completing a form at the library in King Street or following the instructions online at from February 14.