A COSTCUTTING proposal to slash funding to Inverclyde's libraries would result in severe job losses and reduced opening hours, the body representing the service has declared.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [CILIP] sees such a move in the latest budget round as a 'short-term solution that will create long-term problems'.

In an open letter to council leader Stephen McCabe, CILIP Scotland has called on the cash-strapped local authority to leave the 'vital' library service alone as it wrestles with more enforced cuts.

CILIP says as many as nine jobs could go from 'an already small team' and that the knock-on impact on communities within the district would be 'huge'.

Head of CILIP Scotland, Sean McNamara, said: "We believe that reducing opening hours has the potential to severely damage the ability to meet local requirements and may also disadvantage older and more vulnerable people or others, such as working parents of young children, who need to visit libraries outside working hours.

"It is essential that any decisions taken do not affect the local community's ability to access an adequate public library service as required by legislation.

"An appropriately staffed public library service, open and available at the times people need it demonstrates the value a local authority places on its community."

CILIP point out in the letter to Mr McCabe that our libraries play a key role in providing free access to the internet to people unable to get online at home, tackle social isolation and support good mental health and wellbeing, as well as adult learning.

Councillor McCabe insisted there are 'no plans to cut nine library staff or reduce opening hours', although one proposed savings options 'affects the library service'.

He said: "Local people are being asked to consider 36 ways of saving money or increasing income. One of the options affects the library service.

"Last year we had to make £3m in savings. This year we will have to cut another £2.4m.

"No council can absorb cuts like these without there being an impact on local communities."

But Mr McCabe declared: "We know and appreciate the value of our libraries and the services that they provide.

"We know how important they are to our communities."

CILIP Scotland's Mr McNamara said: "Even in the current financial climate, the level of cuts being considered are shocking and would be hugely damaging to a brilliant library service that is vital to its communities.

"Reducing staffing and opening hours to this level will be a short term-solution that will cause significant long-term damage."

According to CILIP, libraries across Scotland are more popular than attending premier league football and the cinema, with recent research showing that they are well used by people of all ages and half the population.