OPENING hours at Ledbury library will be slashed in half in the new year as part of massive cuts by Herefordshire Council.

The library will still relocate to the Master’s House by the late summer of 2014, when the £2.9 million refurbishment of the mediaeval building on St Katherine’s car park will be complete.

However, the opening hours, for the both the library and the customer services centre, which is already located in the Master’s House will be slashed – although the council says it wants to make “the best use” of 15th-century building.

Ledbury library, in the Elizabeth Barrett Browning Institute building in Bye Street, is open more than 45 hours a week.

Ledbury’s customer services centre, where people pay their council tax and access other services, is open 44 hours a week.

Ben Procter, the council’s head of communications, said: “Herefordshire Council opening hours for the library and customer services centre will be reduced in January to 50 per cent of the level they were in April, 2013.

“The Master’s House plan will go ahead. When the services are located there, the council will look to make the best use of the building.”

One idea is to encourage community involvement at the Master’s House, to help boost services. The council cabinet unanimously backed cuts that slash library, museum and customer services to the core at a meeting last week.

With the council having to save £57 million over five years, the cabinet was warned cuts to libraries, museums and customer services were just a start.

The proposals are predicted to save more than £650,000 in the next three years, with £239,274 from the museum and heritage service and £425,000 from libraries and customer service centres.

Coun Roger Phillips, cabinet member for enterprise and culture, said: “The proposals approved by Cabinet will ensure that we deliver a service to our communities, whilst saving the council money in a time of immense financial constraints. “It will also see communities becoming more involved in their libraries.”