MORE than 700 residents have signed a petition to protect a library from the threat of closure as a councillor claims “it will close over his dead body”.

On Friday alone, 544 residents signed a petition calling for Westcliff Library to be protected as Southend Council looks to tackle its £10.7million deficit.

The council has proposed to close two libraries and slash the opening hours at three others in a bid to save £200,000.

Senior councillors have repeatedly insisted no decisions have been made over the future of specific libraries but residents have launched a series of petitions to protect “the vital service provided at libraries”.

Westcliff Library, in London Road, was designated as a Grade II listed building in 1998 and residents have insisted it needs to be protected as it provides a “place for community spirit” and is home of the Southend Care Bank.

Aston Line, Labour Westborough ward councillor, said: “When this announcement first went up my first words were ‘they can close Westcliff library over my dead body’ and I will not let it happen, the community is very passionate, and Westborough is one of the densest wards, there is zero green space minus the library gardens.

“We have very few community assets and I pretty much of us it as an office, I use it for my regular surgery and a huge number of residents chat about their problems there, it is used by many residents.

“Libraries are a vital community asset: covid vaccinations were done there, police hold community events there, people use it as a warm space and I believe the cost benefit of a library is amazing, they are largely staffed by volunteer services, and it offers the most amount of community giveback and vital services.”

Residents commenting to save the library have highlighted a number of reasons to protect the library ranging from free internet to its role as a sanctuary.

However, Mr Line did encourage those petitioning to, despite success, provide a petition via the Southend Council E-Petition website as the current method of using a site cannot be verified by the council or discussed.

“It gives a clear and tangible level of support in the community, but the council constitution has no provision for it,” Mr Line said.