MUSEUM opening hours could be cut and exhibitions scaled back under a 40 per cent budget cut plan.

Oxfordshire County Council is consulting on plans to reduce its full-time staffing roles from 30 to 15 for the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock and the Museums Resource Centre in Standlake.

The move follows a 40 per cent cut to the service’s budget for the next three years as part of four-year £119m savings at the Conservative-run council.

Front-of-house, curatorial and support staff will go and the council said the service would become “increasingly dependent” on volunteers.

Volunteers last year gave 4,269 hours against a council target of 2,600. The council would recruit a volunteer co-ordinator on £22,000 to £24,000 a year under the plans.

Visits to schools and adult groups such as residential homes would also be reduced.

Trevor Hendy, chairman of the Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum said: “There is no way volunteers can replace the service provided by professional officers.”

A council spokesman said: “Partial reliance on volunteers in the future could mean we would have to consider a reduction in opening hours, and there may also be fewer exhibitions.

“The council has no plans to charge for admission.”

Martyn Brown, county heritage and arts officer, told councillors there would be a “significant reduction in service overall”.

A bid for Government funding to work with Oxford University would be a major boost if successful, he told Monday’s meeting of the safer and stronger communities scrutiny committee.

The Woodstock museum has undergone £2.5m worth of renovations with grants from bodies including the Heritage Lottery Fund. A further £150,000 was put in by the county council in the past three years and an essential £475,000 extension was built at Standlake last year.

The £960,000 budget includes £160,000 to reopen Witney’s Cogges Manor Farm Museum, which closed in 2009. Volunteers will reopen the centre on July 17.