AN UNPOPULAR consultation to reduce library opening hours has been approved in a bid to save more than £200,000.

All seven of the council-owned libraries will remain open under the new proposals, but cuts could hit full-time workers and children hard if evening and weekend times are scrapped.

Councillors were 'saddened' to have to look at stripping back library services, but said it was inevitable in the face of unprecedented cuts to funding.

Library users will now be asked to give feedback on the proposals after a meeting of the Policy committee on Monday.

Sarah Hacker, lead member for Culture and Sport, gave a passionate speech in the council chamber after opposition councillors criticised the cuts.

Addressing Councillor Rob White (Green), she said: "You make it sound like we are enjoying these cuts. We have to provide services for vulnerable adults and children and there is a limited pot of money.

"You are not the ones in control of the council and having to make the very best of it for our residents. Every time you say I oppose these cuts it does nothing. We have no more money. You are doing your residents a disservice.

"We cannot make money appear out of thin air and it is with a very heavy heart that we set out these reductions."

Government funding will have been cut from nearly £58m between 2010 and 2020, leaving the council with a grant of under £2m.

The library cuts form part of the council's latest batch of savings, with a predicted funding gap of £43.2m needing to be overturned.

As well as reducing opening hours at six of the seven branches, external groups will be invited to share the space and there will also be a job losses.

Cllr White described the libraries as the 'glue that holds communities together' before he and Councillor Ricky Duveen (Liberal Democrat) opposed the consultation.

The council saved £290,000 after introducing a wave of changes in 2017, including a 30 per cent reduction in opening hours, introduction of self-service machines and cutting staff numbers.

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