Northern Ireland

Libraries NI laying off temporary workers to save money

library
Image caption More than 800 people are employed by Libraries NI

Libraries NI are laying off some temporary staff in order to save money, the organisation has confirmed.

The public service has to save £1.4m or 4.4% of its budget by March next year and needs to make cuts across all its services in 96 branch libraries.

The largest share of the budget is staffing, with more than 800 people employed in the sector.

Chief executive of Libraries NI Irene Knox said they were focussing, at the present time, on agency staff.

Savings plan

"So far, we have identified 21 who will be leaving this week, but I can't rule out the fact that there may well be more, in fact there will be more over the next few weeks," she said.

On Thursday, Stormont Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said that her department was working to to minimise the impact of budget reductions in the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

She was speaking as Libraries NI began outlining its saving plan to staff.

"All business areas across my department and arms-length bodies have been asked to closely examine their budgets to identify savings of 4.4%," she said.

"In common with all arms-length bodies, decisions on how Libraries NI budget reductions are managed is a matter, in the first instance, for the authority's board and senior management.

"I am confident that Libraries NI is doing all it can to minimise the impact of any budget reductions on frontline services."

Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson said: "Libraries are a vital resource for our communities. In recent years libraries have been proactive in adapting to a changing society and usage figures have reflected this.

"These cuts however, will damage the service and cause a loss in usage and ultimately revenue.

"Sinn Féin need to realise their wrecking ball tactics with welfare reform are causing job losses, job uncertainty and cuts in front line services.

"It is ironic that on a day when Gerry Adams is preaching about not accepting cuts, a Sinn Féin minister is imposing cuts on our libraries to pay for Sinn Féin's welfare reform penalties."

The union, Nipsa, has reacted with shock to news of the cuts.

Paddy Mackel of Nipsa said: "Because of the budget cuts, brought about by lack of adequate resources from Westminster to properly fund local public services, library services will now be severely affected.

"Agency staff account for more than 10% of overall staffing levels, undertaking the work of what should be carried out by permanent staff.

"The network of libraries will not be able to function if 100 staff are removed."