LIBRARY staff in South Gloucestershire are facing the threat of losing their jobs after councillors voted in favour of controversial cost-cutting plans.

The changes approved by members of South Gloucestershire Council’s Environment and Community Services (ECS) committee yesterday mean visitors to libraries will use a swipe card to gain entry, in a move designed to extend the opening hours to 9am to 8pm and allow a seven-day service.

However, the introduction of the Open Plus technology would mean that not as many library staff are needed, leaving workers fearing for their future.

This is part of the council’s attempts to save £500,000 from its library budget.

Seven Conservative councillors backed the move while three Labour members were against the plan, with three Liberal Democrats abstaining from the vote, which took place in Thornbury’s Armstrong Hall yesterday.

Although the committee approved the plans, there will now be a further three-month public consultation before the council makes its final decision in the new year, with the changes coming in October 2017 if approved.

During the meeting, the Labour members tried to make an amendment to the proposals by arguing that a £36 green bin charge, reduced to £30 in the previous budget, should be put back up to £36 to raise funds which could be used to keep staff on at libraries.

They argued that they had no problem with the Open Plus technology as long as it boosted the existing services but were opposed to the idea of losing staff.

Before the committee began its debate, Suzanne Johnson spoke on behalf of residents, and said feedback from a survey she conducted showed people were concerned by the unmanned library system because of safety issues.

Other causes for worry included the absence of help from staff and the technology potentially not working.

Before the meeting, members of the Unison union’s South Gloucestershire branch held a protest.

The council has to save £22million by 2019/20 but the introduction of Open Plus would see an investment of up to £400,000.

After the meeting, Cllr Heather Goddard, chair of the ECS committee, said: “Access to libraries out of staffed hours is not about replacing staff, it is about providing a service in addition to their expertise, when we would otherwise not be able to offer anything.”