Hampshire slashes library staff

<p>Hampshire County Council is to cut its library staff by 30% following a review of leisure and heritage department spending. A council spokeswoman also confirmed that &#163;250,000 of the authority's &#163;2m book fund for the year has been earmarked to be moved, if the recreation and heritage department fails to break even by next April. One commentator called the move the most dramatic cut in library resources by any county this year. Up to 20 jobs are at risk.</p><p>Councillor Margaret Snaith, executive member for recreation and heritage, played down the impact of the review on library spending, and promised employees that the council would avoid forced redundancies if at all possible. She said: "We can reassure staff that we will use every measure we can to minimise job losses by, for example, seeking volunteers for early retirement or redundancy." But Desmond Clarke, chairman of library charity and lobby group Libri, accused the council of diverting library funds to pay for a customer contact call centre. He said that the council has already cut the book fund by &#163;500,000 in the past two years and, as a result, the number of books in Hampshire's libraries has declined by 20%. </p><p>"What is shocking is that this appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to an overspend and the need for a contact centre," he said. "It isn't a properly thought-out strategy."</p><p>The review in Hampshire comes as Devon County Council decided to close four libraries and hand a further seven over to specially created community partnerships. However, the council also said it aimed to open two new libraries in other towns and invest in technology to extend library opening times.</p>