THE re-opening of the McLean Museum and Watt Library has been delayed by a year.

The Tele has learned that the 143-year-old gallery at the corner of Union Street and Kelly Street will not be back up and running until 2020.

The McLean, which has been renamed The Watt Institution in honour of Greenock icon James Watt to mark the 200th anniversary of his death this year, has been out of bounds since December 2016 for a £2m restoration project.

The work was due to take between 18 months and two years, taking it up to the end of 2018 at the latest.

But officials from the Inverclyde branch of trade union Unison have disclosed that the museum will now not re-open until 2020 and blame this on council budget savings - something the local authority has today denied.

Councillors will be asked today to approve a £68,000 - 27 per cent - reduction in funding for the Greenock gallery, which will mean reduced opening hours and the loss of 2.5 'full-time equivalent' (FTE) jobs.

A Unison spokesperson said: "It is a disproportionate amount to cut for a service this size. "This cut will mean a delay of the re-instatement and opening until 2020."

Union officials say the late re-opening will also affect plans to mark the James Watt anniversary this year and the staff and cash reductions will threaten professional accreditation, result in the loss of expertise and put remaining staff under greater pressure, resulting in 'ad-hoc' closures to accommodate holidays and sick days.

A council spokesman said: "The delay in re-opening The Watt Institution is in no way linked to the proposed budget cuts. "It is down to the refurbishment work over-running and the fact that we can't fully start reinstating the exhibits until the week beginning April 1. "The savings will be phased to ensure that The Watt Institution can be fully reinstated."

One service which will bear the brunt of council cutbacks is the iYouth Zone club in Gourock's King Street, which opened in 2016.

Local Unison leaders say the facility will shut with the loss of more than the 2.59 FTEs currently proposed under a major shake-up of the local authority's community learning and development department.

A council spokesman says all iYouth Zone staff will have to reapply for their jobs and that there are some vacancies in other centres.

He said: "The staffing levels for the Youth Zones are being cut because the service that is being offered is being reduced."

Councillors will meet today to ratify the 2019/20 council budget proposals, with a total of 38 jobs to be axed while more parking charges and school breakfast club fees look set to be introduced.