COUNCIL chiefs could change their minds over controversial cuts to evening opening hours at some libraries, it emerged today.

Bosses at Worcestershire County Council have pledged to "listen very carefully" to concerns after proposals to reduce hours at 17 different libraries came under sustained attack by two Labour politicians today.

As the Worcester News first revealed last month, a total of 76.5 hours could be removed from opening hours as part of a bid to save £1 million.

Stourport faces the worst hit, losing 14 hours a week, while the rest face losing between 90 minutes and eight hours, with late-evening openings taking a particular hit.

County Hall's corporate and communities scrutiny panel debated it today, where opposition Labour leader Councillor Peter McDonald and his group chairman Councillor Richard Udall fiercely criticised it.

One of the sites to lose its evenings would be St John's, which currently stays open until 7pm on Tuesdays.

Councillor Udall said: "I'm very, very worried about the impact this'll have on some individuals - they may not be big in number, but the impact is significant.

"St John's has one of the lowest rates of computer ownership in the county - there's children who go there on Tuesdays who won't be able to do their homework.

"There's a chess club on Tuesdays, that'll stop. I do my councillor surgeries on Tuesdays, there's jobseekers who go there.

"I am not saying 'no cuts', but to remove the only late-evening opening is a gross injustice to the people of St John's.

"I am shocked and amazed you are even talking about scrapping the late night Tuesday evenings, I would rather you shave off 30 minutes each morning to achieve the two-hour reduction."

Councillor McDonald called the cuts "a complete sham", adding: "During this consultation residents aren't being asked 'are you against these cuts?'.

"They are being asked, like a condemned person, 'would you rather be shot or hung', it's shameful."

He told the panel "not a single hour should be cut" when millions is being sunk into schemes like superfast broadband.

Neil Anderson, the council's head of communities, said he was in "listening" mode and wanted feedback.

After another request from Councillor Robin Lunn to save the later opening hours in Redditch, he said he'd be "very happy" to re-think the proposals at some sites.

"There has been - and there is no intention of - library closures," he said.

"Our intention is transformation rather than slash, burn and cut.

"But it's fair to say the library service does need to deliver further savings, you all know the council's budget situation, libraries have to take their fare share of that."

He added: "We're after all the feedback we can get so the changes to the hours affect customers the least."

It means some libraries could shave off extra time in the mornings, in order to keep their evening slots.

During the debate several Tory councillors criticised the Labour duo's interventions, calling it a "political speech" and "infuriating".

Conservative Councillor Clive Holt said the county is "doing a fine job" compared to "Labour-controlled areas like Wolverhampton and Birmingham" which have shut sites.

During the debate Carol Brown, the library service improvement manager, said each hour closed would save "around £1,250" per year.

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, the cabinet member for localism and communities, insisted the county's strategy on libraries is "some way" better than swathes of the rest of Britain, reminding them no sites have closed.

She also said each final decision would be up to the individual needs of each library and that The Hive in Worcester, which faces no reductions, is so successful a Government-led 'National Libraries Taskforce' is looking to have a meeting there.

"I go around the country, doing LGA (Local Government Association) conferences and looking at how other places do things and I can tell you, we are some way ahead of them," she said.

In recent years many county libraries have survived closure by becoming dual-use with the likes of the JobCentre Plus and other agencies, and by using more volunteers.

Back in 2011 bosses hatched a target of saving £2.7 million from library spending by 2016, a target they are only £300,000 short of now.

But due to serious financial pressures that target was increased to £3.7 million, upping it by £1 million by 2018/19.

A reduction of 76.5 hours a week would save an estimated £500,000 with the rest coming from possible job cuts, increased library fees and what the council calls potential "unstaffed periods" at some sites.

A final decision on the hours is due in July.

* Concern grows over cuts to opening hours at 17 Worcestershire libraries

* SPECIAL REPORT: Opening hours face the chop at 17 different Worcestershire libraries in £1m cutbacks