Plans to cut Norfolk library opening hours

Library users will have less time to browse for their favourite books from the autumn after plans to cut opening hours by around 10pc took a step forward.

Norfolk County Council is proposing the changes as part of a package of measures to save �1.5m over the next three years.

The ruling cabinet will make a final decision on the proposals, but members of the council’s community services overview and scrutiny panel agreed in principle to the changes after a public consultation in which 8,079 people gave their views on the changes.

The council plans to introduce proposals which had the most support in the consultations, and have agreed new opening hours for all but three of the county’s 47 libraries. Other changes include reducing the mobile library service rounds from once every three weeks, to once every four.

Most of the savings, around �1.2m, will come from staff cuts, with the rest from efficiency savings after the introduction of new customer self-service facilities.

But Conservative Nigel Shaw said: “How is this going to work in further years, are we going to cut hours even more? It just looks like it’s going to fall below an acceptable level as it’s quite a lot of money,” he said.

Labour councillor George Nobbs, urged the council to leave the door open to reversing the reduced hours in better times.

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“I agree we are doing a better job than some councils have done, but this financial crisis isn’t going to last forever, could I ask when times are easier that we don’t accept these cuts as permanent,” Mr Nobbs said.

James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services, said: ““I think you are right that it should be looked at in future if things do change. Compared to what’s going on nationally, the fact that we are not closing any libraries has at least re-assured the general public.

“I know it’s going to be tough, but I think that compared to other areas, we are going to maintain the service and keep it in-house.”