Libraries in Northern Ireland could be forced to cut their opening hours in an effort to meet cost-saving targets, it has been revealed.
The news follows an announcement from Libraries NI that some temporary staff are being laid off due to a 4.4 per cent budget cut for the year to March 2015.
Further savings have not been ruled out and the body said “immediate steps must be taken” to deliver these spending cuts.
Libraries NI also said: “Further measures will regrettably have to include a review of branch opening hours. This process will take place during October and it is anticipated that planned temporary changes will be implemented from November 1 onwards.
“In the interim there may be temporary ad hoc reductions in opening hours in many areas.
“The aim will be to minimise disruption whilst protecting core library services. We will make every effort to inform customers of changes to opening hours in advance.”
Irene Knox, Libraries NI chief executive, said: “Since its formation in 2009, Libraries NI has made significant efficiency savings and there are limited options available for the organisation to save further money.
“Library services have impacted positively on many people’s lives and Libraries NI remains committed to providing high-quality services supported by skilled, experienced staff.”
Upper Bann MP David Simpson said that while he recognises that savings have to be made, the “rationale for these cuts can be traced back to Sinn Fein’s refusal to implement welfare reform” and the multi-million pound penalties as a result.
“Sinn Fein need to realise their wrecking ball tactics with welfare reform are causing job losses, job uncertainty and cuts in front line services. It is ironic that on a day when Gerry Adams is preaching about not accepting cuts, a SF minister is imposing cuts on our libraries to pay for Sinn Fein’s welfare reform penalties,” he said.
The Nipsa union has said its members are “devastated by the cuts”.