Libraries in Wiltshire are to have their opening hours slashed in a cost-cutting exercise that could also see some rural libraries close.

A massive black hole of £40m has been left in WIltshire Council’s budget following huge cuts of 28.5 per cent in the government’s grant to councils.

The new Trowbridge Library, which will be housed inside the revamped County Hall, will have its opening time cut by three hours to 49 hours per week. It will be open three evenings until 7pm and from 9am until 5pm on Saturdays.

Warminster will open 43 hours per week, with Bradford on Avon and Melksham libraries open for 40 hours per week. All three will open on two evenings a week and Saturday.

Westbury and Corsham will open for 33 hours a week with two evenings and a half day on Saturday.

Ten of the 31 council-operated libraries in the county, including Box Library, will be closed unless volunteers agree to keep them open.

The transfer of the libraries and reduced opening hours elsewhere will save the council around £500,000 over two years. The budget for buying new books will also be reduced from £861,000 to £720,000.

Wiltshire Council will continue to pay for the running costs of volunteer-run libraries and a librarian will tour them on a rota, working at each for five hours a week.

If community groups fail to come forward in each area that library will be closed and the council’s five mobile libraries will serve the communities for three hours per week.

Before Christmas 17.5 full time posts were made redundant from the library services department. Some librarians will be made redundant as part of the community transfer, which council bosses hope will take place by September.

Council leader Cllr Jane Scott said: “Because of government cuts and pressures on our budget we need to have a different approach to our communities and that is what they are calling the Big Society. This will involve communities taking on libraries so that their future can be safeguarded.”

Cllr John Thomson, cabinet member for libraries, said: “Other councils are considering shutting the doors on their libraries. Obviously we’d like to leave them as they are but I think that this is the best we can do in this situation. We very much want to keep them all open.

“We are still very much investing in libraries with the new library planned for Trowbridge.”

He added that libraries could stay open beyond the hours set out in the changes if volunteers help out.