FIVE workers have lost their jobs at Worcester's historic archives - and opening hours slashed by nearly 50 per cent.

Worcestershire County Council has made some drastic changes to the archives and archaeology service, based at The Hive, in a bid to save money.

Access to the original archives, which attract visitors from all over the country, has been reduced from 50 hours to 25.5.

A two-hour staffing slot for people using the self-service facilities on a Sunday has also been scrapped.

Your Worcester News can also reveal how the 25 roles available at the archives service has been cut by five, with most of the axed workers taking voluntary redundancy.

The council insists it thought long and hard about the changes, saying it is grappling with "the enormous challenge" of major budget cuts.

Worcestershire's 12 miles of historic archives are among the best in the UK and are only one of six nationwide to win 'national accreditation' status.

The changes have not affected the microfilm sources, catalogues and indexes, which are separate to the original archives.

The Hive's general opening hours are also independent, and they have been untouched.

The council's Conservative leadership says it thought carefully about matching the opening times to the preferences of the people using it.

They have ruled out privatising the archives, but warn that further changes will be in the offing in the continued drive to save cash.

The cuts have been criticised by the council's Labour group, which says it wants assurances Worcester's "heritage and history is not for sale".

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "The remodelling of front of house has been a success, matching our opening times with visitor and user preferences to minimise impact and including self-service where possible.

"We are however not there yet but progress has been made and is well above expectations."

She said she believes people still get the same "high quality service" despite the changes, which launched in February.

She added: "It's been able to do this because of the dedication and support of our staff who have worked together to find the best possible solutions.

"Credit also should go to our customers for their continued support."