LEIGH Town Council hit back at claims it lied to residents and misused taxpayers’ money as it campaigned to save the town’s library.

Southend Council leader Nigel Holdcroft accused the town council of lying that the Grade II-listed building, in Broadway West, faced closure.

And he hit out at use of council tax funds for a campaign to keep professional librarians there.

But town council chairman Caroline Parker revealed it only used £305 for the campaign and hit back that councillors felt the library was under threat.

Southend Council originally suggested closing Leigh Library and opening a new one, possibly on the Elm Road site that includes the town council offices.

But that was scrapped after a 6,000-strong petition called for the library to be kept as it is.

Mrs Parker said: “I can’t understand it. I’m flabbergasted because I’ve always held Nigel in high esteem. For him to come out with that, I’m totally knocked out.”

Mr Holdcroft, who represents West Leigh, made the allegations as the council’s Conservative cabinet signed off plans to reduce the number of paid staff in Leigh and Kent Elms libraries as part of a shake-up of the service, designed to save £378,000 over three years.

Deputy leader Jon Lamb, who also represents West Leigh, backed his leader’s comments.

Mrs Parker admitted the town council used council tax cash – but only a small amount towards a successful campaign with popular backing.

More than quarter of Leigh’s 20,000 population signed the petition.

She said: “We did think it could be closed.

“We didn’t want anyone to suffer at our expense, but we were concerned – as we should be about our library.

“If we were sure it was going to be kept open, we wouldn’t have bothered to get signatures on a petition.”

Mrs Parker pointed out Leigh town councillors receive no pay, expenses or allowances.

As leader, Mr Holdcroft receives £37,809 a year in allowances and as deputy leader Mr Lamb £23,526.