NEARLY half of Southend librarians are set to lose their jobs under a controversial shake-up.

The number of staff looks set to be cut from 25 to 14 after Friars and Thorpedene libraries in Shoebury close, Westcliff and Southchurch libraries are handed over to volunteers.

Some paid staff will also be axed from Kent Elms and Leigh libraries – amounting to 45 per cent of jobs going.

The branches have had no fulltime paid library staff since 1992, but the change in man hours is the equivalent of dropping from 14 to six or seven full-time staff.

Claire Wormald, secretary of the local government branch of Southend Unison, said: “I’m surprised job losses are so high.

“They have suggested Kent Elms and Leigh are going to keep paid staff, so I don’t knowhow it’s going to work.

“It’s really going to impact on communities and it shows those libraries left, which are supposed to be run by volunteers, aren’t going to be supported.”

The budget for the so-called “hub” libraries, which will retain paid staff, will be slashed by half, the Echo can reveal. Running Friars and Thorpedene, which are set to be replaced by a new hub in Delaware Road, Leigh and Kent Elms, cost the council £381,000 over the last financial year.

But the council has only put aside £200,000 for the hubs in future.

The council will begin working with people interested in volunteering in Westcliff, Southchurch, Kent Elms and Leigh next month, while at the same time paid staff start the redundancy process.

The council hopes to have the community libraries up and running by March 2016.

Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture, said: “The staffing restructure proposals will be subject to consultation with both staff and trade unions.

“The council’s HR policies will be applied in an effort to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies.”

* A last-ditch bid to delay the changes to library services failed.

Labour, Independent and about half of the Lib Dem members voted to force the Tory cabinet to look again at its decision, but the vote at full council last Thursday was lost by 16 votes to 13.