LIBRARIES and museums staff in the Bradford district could go on strike in the face of “swingeing cuts”.

The Unite union has announced it is holding a consultative ballot of its 50-or-so library and museum members in Bradford district to see if they wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot.

Union bosses have accused Bradford Council of regarding libraries and museums as "soft targets" and said it should be “ashamed” of attacking “low paid, mostly female workers”.

The council has previously announced major cuts to its libraries and museums service, amounting to a £1.05 million saving in library budgets and a £500,000 cut to the museums service in 2020-21.

Overall budget reductions for the services for the current and next financial year represent a cut of 65 per cent.

Members of the council’s regeneration and environment scrutiny committee were this week due to be given an update on the services and cuts.

At an emotion-charged public meeting in Keighley Library earlier this year, fears were voiced over the future role of the historic North Street building as plans were unveiled to transform it into a ‘community hub’ as part of a district-wide cost-slashing shake-up.

Mark Martin, Unite regional officer, said this week the council should think again about its proposals.

“We are calling on the council to urgently reconsider this rolling programme of swingeing cuts that undermines Bradford’s libraries and museums – an integral part of the district’s social and educational fabric,” he said.

“The impact of these cuts on users will mean that the council is moving towards predominantly community-managed or hybrid libraries.

“These failed models will see libraries staffed by volunteers, rather than professional librarians who do far more than they are credited for, including running classes and assisting vulnerable people to complete benefit forms online.

“While we appreciate the local authorities have suffered brutal spending cutbacks since the Tories took power in 2010, this council has failed to undertake meaningful consultations with Unite.

“It is clear that the council bosses regard libraries and museums as a ’soft target’ for cuts – and this can’t be allowed to happen.

“The cuts include redundancies, and erosion of the terms and conditions of members.”

He added: “For some staff, this means undertaking supervisory duties with no increase in pay. Also, the museum visitor assistants are losing out on enhanced pay for weekend working.

“The council should be ashamed for attacking the low paid, mostly female, workers in this fashion.

“Our members have been driven to despair by the council’s action.”

The consultative ballot will open next week and close on August 12.

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “Due to the unprecedented Government funding reductions, all council services are under pressure and that’s the case across the country. Bradford Council’s net budget in 2020 will be around half what it was in 2010 in real terms. But we will always consult fully and widely on any proposals to change services, including with members of the public, staff and trade unions.”