PLANS to cut opening hours at Huntingdonshire libraries have been denounced by community leaders who say the move makes no sense.

A public consultation into proposals to cut opening hours at St Neots, Ramsey and Huntingdon was launched last week by Cambridgeshire County Council, and is due to end on June 18.

Officials say the cuts are needed to cope with a 28 per cent reduction in the library budget over the next three years, as part of government austerity measures.

Huntingdon library could see its hours reduced to 46 hours a week from 52, with either the current Sunday service facing the axe or a half-day being introduced on Thursdays.

In Ramsey, the library’s evening sessions could go, reducing its total opening hours from 28 to 23 hours a week. And St Neots is also likely to suffer with its hours dropping from 48 to 46.

All three libraries have recently been revamped – Huntingdon library opened in 2009 as a £4.6 million purpose-built facility, and St Neots was given a £74,000 make-over last year.

However, libraries at St Ives, Warboys and Buckden could all see slight gains in their hours in a bid to standardise opening hours across the district, if the plans are approved by the county council’s cabinet in September.

County councillor David Harty, cabinet member for learning, said: “We want to make sure libraries are open when communities need them, while also making hours more consistent and equitable. The council is committed to doing its best to protect library services while meeting the tremendous savings required of us and all councils nationally.

“As a result we are proposing some slight reductions in opening hours at some libraries, but these proposals will also see opening times that reflect the needs of local residents.”

The changes are part of the county council’s review of library services. Libraries with up to 7,000 users a week are being asked to open 15 hours per week, those with between 7,000 and 9,999 to open 23, and those with between 25,000 and 49,999, 46 hours per week.

St Neots town councillor Bob Farrer said: “I would say I do not see the point in knocking two hours off the opening times. The library should be the hub of the town. It should have the tourist information centre there. In some communities, the town council offices should be there.

“Last year they refurbished it. Why should they want to spend that money and start shutting it? I would much prefer the town council put a bit of money in it.”

Huntingdonshire district councillor for Ramsey Peter Reeve said one alternative was to move the current town council offices into the library to help boost hours.

“Our clerk is there on Mondays and we could train him up to trouble-shoot the self-service system, or we could set up a volunteer bureau for that Monday.

“It is unacceptable to have that building shut. We are very grateful we have a new library where other communities have had their library shut down, but equally we want a library that is going to work for the people.”

INFORMATION: Questionnaires for each library, giving details of the proposed timetable, are available online at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/libraries.