LIBRARY opening hours face being reduced, community wardens cut and service charges increased as a council faces cuts of more than £26m in a year.

Durham County Council’s Labour cabinet yesterday backed proposals to cut 20 neighbourhood warden jobs and increase fees for services, including Durham City parkand- ride.

Council house rents are also expected to rise by 6.2 per cent – an average of £3.71 a week, to an average of £63.05 a week. The news comes ahead of the authority’s budget being agreed at a full council meeting.

Meanwhile, councillors also ordered a 12-week consultation on cutting opening hours to 36 a week at 11 town centre libraries and 20 a week at 27 community branches.

Mobile library services would also be reduced to save £1.5m overall.

About 250 library staff could be affected. Only Clayport, in Durham, will escape the cuts, having had its hours reduced last year.

The council faces cuts of nearly £190m between 2010 and 2017 – about 40 per cent of its spending power.

Council leader Simon Henig said: “We are facing a major financial challenge. We are in the middle of one of the biggest (spending) reductions ever seen in the North-East.”

The authority also plans to freeze council tax, protect the winter maintenance budget, introduce new charges and cut back-office spending.

Coun Henig rejected opposition claims that all the savings necessary could be made from cutting management as a “complete illusion”.

He said the number of County Hall bosses earning more than £50,000 a year was 45 – not 250 as Tories and Lib Dems had claimed.

Lib Dem councillor Amanda Hopgood questioned what she called the cabinet’s onesize- fits-all approach to libraries, saying her local branch, in Newton Hall, could lose 23 hours a week – more than half its total.

Coun Henig said the only alternative to cutting hours was closing branches.

The authority’s budget is expected to be agreed at a full council meeting on Wednesday, February 22.

Consultation on the library proposals will run until Friday, May 4. To take part, visit, email l i b r a r y . c o n s u l t a t i o n @ or call 0191- 383-4403.