A LIBRARIES campaigner has warned County Hall’s new plans will see too much money wasted on back-room staff, at the expense of service at the counter.

Trevor Craig, of the Friends of Wychwood Library, used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover data on Oxfordshire County Council spending on libraries.

Mr Craig, from Ascott-under-Wychwood, said the results for the last financial year showed 29.5 per cent of staff spending on the library service, or £1.72m, was going on back-office staff, but that library groups had not been able to challenge the council to find savings there.

Instead, the branch staff were set to be cut, with libraries relying on volunteers to maintain opening hours. Under plans out for consultation, the Milton-under-Wychwood branch is among 16 which will need volunteers to provide two thirds of its staffing.

A further 22 libraries will remain fully staffed by the council and five will need to rely on a small amount of volunteer support.

The council is looking to cut up to £2m from its library budget as it seeks to make £119m savings over the next four years.

Wychwood Library faces its two part-time staff members being cut back to one and the Friends group will have to find volunteers and contribute towards the recruitment costs.

Mr Craig, 33, said: “The back office cuts are not on the table in the consultation. They appear to be doing nothing with that.

“We are a bit miffed that Oxfordshire County Council neglected to open this up to consultation as well, particularly as Government policy is that back office cuts should be made first, ahead of front line services.

“It seems very management heavy for 30 per cent of costs to be in the back office and, if I am being cynical, it is hardly surprising that turkeys have not voted for Christmas.”

The figures reveal that the equivalent of 54 full-time staff work in back office roles for the service: 32 of them in “managerial and profess-ional” roles, costing £1.15m, and 22 in “service support” roles, costing £555,486.

In comparison, the equivalent of 37 staff work at the county’s busiest branch, Oxford Central Library in the Westgate Centre, which last year cost £911,726 to run.

A decision on the future of the services is due later this year. But a county council spokesman: “About 80 per cent of our staffing budget is spent on frontline branch library staffing.

“Through a planned restructure, we are reducing expenditure on management and professional support services by 16 per cent despite the fact we want to keep all of the libraries open – and would have exactly the same number of libraries to support.

“The consultation is open, there is an opportunity for people to suggest alternatives. Nothing has been said anywhere at any time that people cannot challenge or provide feedback on issues relating to the back office.”