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Temporary reduction in library opening hours planned in Torfaen

A TEMPORARY reduction in opening times is being planned across three libraries in Torfaen due to staff shortages.

There are currently four vacant library assistant roles within the borough’s service, which is leading to staff shortages as more people return to using libraries following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Torfaen council is currently carrying out a review of library services, and it says filling the four vacancies while this is ongoing would ‘prejudice’ its outcome. But a council report says the service is at “severe risk of disruption” if current opening hours are maintained.

Council officers are proposing reduced opening hours on Saturdays, when the impact of the vacant posts is being felt, at Cwmbran, Pontypool and Blaenavon libraries. A reduction in opening hours on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons at Pontypool library is also proposed.

This would mean Cwmbran and Pontypool libraries would close at 1pm, instead of 4pm, and Blaenavon library would shut at 2pm instead of 5pm on Saturdays.

Pontypool library would open from 2pm until 7pm on Tuesdays, instead of from the current opening time of 9.30am.

It would also open from 9am until 1pm on Thursday, instead of the current times of 9.30am until 7pm.

A full day opening of 9am to 5pm is planned on Wednesday to coincide with outdoor market day, when footfall is highest in the town.

The proposals would cut library assistant hours by 66, which is the equivalent of the four vacant roles.

A report says the reduction in opening hours would result in a saving of £52,000.

It says there is a ‘risk’ the proposed changes will impact on those who access libraries, particularly younger and older people.

But the plans aim to ensure at least one library is open every day, that libraries are open for one school run for residents with children to use, and that the libraries at home service is available for older residents who would normally have accessed the service when it is planned to be closed.

A council report says the service has sustained the vacant posts during the pandemic, when use of libraries was low.

“However, as footfall and issues rise, the four vacancies are presenting a significant risk of staff shortages,” the report says. “Without mitigating action, based on current opening hours it is likely that staff shortages would result in unplanned service closures.”

Torfaen council’s cabinet will consider approving the proposed temporary reduction in opening hours at a meeting on Tuesday.

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Temporary reduction in library opening hours planned in Torfaen

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