LIBRARY and museum staff in Bradford will be balloted for strike action over what a union has dubbed “swingeing cuts”.

Unite said it will hold a ballot for strike action and industrial action short of a strike of its approximately 50 library and museum members in defence of the library and museum service. The ballot opens on Friday, September 13, and closes on Friday, September, 27.

Bradford Council is due to cut its museums and galleries budget, currently, £1.8 million, by £500,000 in 2020/21. The libraries budget, which is currently £2,824,000, will be cut by £1.5 million.

Mark Martin, Unite regional officer, said while the Council offered to pause the process to allow for meaningful consultation, it decided to “recklessly press on”. He added: “The cuts would be devastating and adversely impact these services. The council is hell-bent on destroying the district’s museums and libraries service at a time when it should be supporting them, if it wishes to succeed in its bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.”

Mr Martin said “brutal Tory local government cuts” mean some reductions are inevitable, but Bradford Council has a duty to consult with the union.

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

Unite members voted by 79 per cent in a consultative ballot that they wished to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “As Unite have pointed out, the proposed changes to libraries are taking place in the midst of the ninth consecutive year of national spending cuts during which time the demand for wider council services has seen a sharp increase alongside rising costs. By 2020-21 we will have delivered over £300m of reductions in the ten years since 2011.

“Since the onset of austerity there has been just one library closure in the district, showing the commitment by the Council to sustain services and outcomes by whatever means possible. The Council has finished consultation for the 2019 changes to the libraries and museums services and they were implemented on September 1. No libraries were closed during this process.

“Now is the time to prepare to commence a programme of engagement and consultation over the 2020/21 changes to libraries and museums.

“The Council always consults with its trade unions on matters relating to staff. Trade unions are a valued partner and have witnessed how hard it’s been for councils during this prolonged period of austerity. Unite, along with the other trade unions, have been invited to take part in discussions at every stage of the staff consultation. We have answered all of Unite’s concerns. Unite have regularly turned down the opportunities to enter into an open dialogue.”

The Council is “disappointed” in Unite’s decision to continue with the ballot, but said the door remains open for discussions. It highlighted the potential investment opportunities “for the benefit of all in the district”through the City of Culture bid.