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Vote to halt cuts to library opening

DUBLIN councillors have passed an emergency motion seeking to overturn a decision made by council officials to restrict some library opening times by up to 17 hours a week.

Under Fingal County Council's plan, unveiled last month, opening hours at Balbriggan will be reduced from 54 a week to 37, while Baldoyle and Rush will drop from 50 to 37.

The proposed cut in opening hours is due to staffing shortages caused by the public sector recruitment moratorium and the retirement of library workers, said Betty Boardman, the council's senior executive librarian, who said the council was "finding it very difficult to keep the doors open".

MOTION

Local residents have already expressed their anger at the proposed cuts.

Many have attended public meetings in Balbriggan and Rush to voice their opposition and students were out in force last week protesting outside Balbriggan library.

Fingal councillors have now passed a special motion which empowers them to overturn a decision of the County Manager, David O'Connor.

Officials say the proposed new opening arrangements will keep all 'service points' open and avoid unplanned closures, while freeing up "nine staff which will enable us to fill gaps due to retirements".

But councillors unanimously agreed to call on the county manager to withdraw his decision to restrict opening hours.

Cllr Ken Farrell (Lab) said he believed the council's decision was wrong, as the libraries provide "an important local service".

Cllr Matthew Waine (SP) said householders must wonder what was the point in paying local property tax.

"No matter how much we pay, there will still be cuts", he said.

Cllr Anne Devitt (FG) was the only councillor to oppose the motion, saying the council had to work within its budget.

Cllr Gerry McGuire (Lab) said the library service should be the last to be cut.

Head of Corporate Affairs Peter Caulfield said a minimum of 12 new library staff, at a cost of €500,000, were needed to maintain the existing service.

Mr O'Connor said it was with "the greatest reluctance" that the council proposed to reduce library opening hours.

He asked the councillors not to pass the motion, calling on them to work with council officials to come to an agreement.

Mr O'Connor also said the council was willing to open its financial accounts to councillors to show them the difficult decisions that have to be made.

hnews@herald.ie


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