FEARS have been raised that changes to library systems in Southend will mean residents pay more for the same service.

At the end of March, Southend Libraries left Essex Library Service and joined a larger consortium called the South East Libraries Management System (SELMS).

According to the council, the scheme, which is linked to libraries in Brighton and Hertfordshire, will provide a cheaper service for residents.

However concerns have been raised by readers who have discovered to reserve something which is not in one of Southend’s libraries, will cost them £3 per item.

Nicola Collins, 37, of Seaview Road, Leigh, said: “There has been little information given to users and the transition has been disastrous.

“The service was supposed to be up and running after three weeks which took us to March 26, but the online catalogue was not available.”

Mrs Collins, who is an avid reader and regularly uses the libraries in the area, said she would be forced to pay for the same quality of service she got for free before the move.

“I have 12 books on my waiting list at the moment with Essex Libraries.

“When I checked on the new system, only four of them were available in Southend Libraries,” she said.

“Which means I would have had to pay £24 to get the others transferred - that is a lot of money.

“When we were part of Essex County Council we could reserve a book from any library in the whole of Essex for free.

“People will now be getting a worse service, or at least paying more for it.

“How has been allowed to happen without a consultation?”

Customers can still borrow books from other libraries in Essex by joining the Essex Library Service, however items must be returned to the correct library.

Southend Council denied the scheme would end up costing residents more.

A spokesman said: “As part of these changes, residents can suggest we purchase titles not available at their local library, for a £1 fee or free online.

“If we are unable to purchase the title, the book can be requested through the SELMS catalogue for a charge of £3, which is less than the previous £7 charged through the inter-library loan service.”