SOUTHEND Pier was closed for the first time today as part of new opening times, which the council hope will save up to £50,000 a year.

The pier will now be shut on Mondays and Tuesdays right through until the beginning of April as part of Southend Council money-saving plans.

The closure came as a surprise to Leigh resident Russell Langstone, 67, who turned up at the pier today expecting to be able to do his regular pier walk.

Mr Langstone, of Leighville Grove, said: “This is my regular exercise of an afternoon. I work in the morning then come down here.

“It’s something I really look forward to, so I’m surprised it’s now being shut for two days a week.

“It doesn’t need many people to staff it; I would’ve thought keeping it open might have made money.”

Council bosses claim on Mondays and Tuesdays the pier’s visitor numbers were often in the single figures.

The council has promised the pier will be open even if popular off-season dates, such as New Year’s Day or Easter, fall on a Monday or Tuesday.

Graham Longley, Southend’s Lib Dem group leader, spoke out against the closure plan orginally and hasn’t changed his mind.

Mr Longley said: “I think if you want to be an up and coming tourist town that we claim to be, you can’t have your attractions closed for part of the week. They’ve got to be open all the time.”