THE county council has been accused of putting Worcestershire's history and heritage at risk over plans to cut its archive budget by more than half next year.

A draft budget approved by Worcestershire County Council's cabinet at a meeting on Thursday (December 13) outlines a £405,000 cut to the archive and archaeological service next year.

That would mean the service, based at the Hive in Worcester, would have its budget slashed from £700,000 to £295,000.

The draft budget briefly sets out what changes would be made to make the cut including looking at "new ways of working" as well as reviewing fees and charges and reviewing staff and management.

Councillor Richard Udall said the cuts would make the archive service unsustainable and would put Worcestershire’s history and heritage at risk.

He said: "The proposals suggest the county council are to search for new partners and we need to know what this means.

"New partners may mean sending all documents to the British Library or handing over the stock to the private sector.

"We need to know what they are suggesting and which staff are likely to be sacked.

"We have highly qualified and nationally recognised employees, who are experts in their field.

"They face being sacrificed on the altar of austerity cuts."

Speaking after Thursday's (December 13) cabinet meeting, Cllr Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for communities, said the archive service would be re-modelled to lower its budget and could not rule out job losses.

She said: "As we have just seen, there a lot of pressures on the budget and one of the options that was put forward was the re-modelling and reworking of the archive and the archaeological service.

"The hope is that the front-facing service at the Hive, which is open to the public, wouldn't change but it's looking at trying to have more grant funding for services that are done, speak with partners and look at how to do things differently.

"It will mean a change in how the service is delivered but we hope that with careful management that we can still ensure that the public will be able to go to the Hive and have public access.

When asked whether services would be lost at the archives, Cllr Hodgson said: "I don't know whether any services will be lost but it might mean that people won't be getting the service they are getting at the moment.

"There are a lot of grants out there that we can try and get so staff will work to specific projects and grants rather than staff waiting for the grants to come in."

Cllr Udall also accused the county council’s Conservatives of intellectual and historical vandalism.

He said: “They do not value our heritage or our history and we need to look again and see how we can protect our archives from cuts which will ultimately destroy our history.

“We need to consider other options and look at how revenue could be raised without sacrificing our heritage."