SOUTHEND’S libraries have been saved from the threat of closure after a review on their future was removed from the council’s budget.

Two libraries could have closed and the opening hours of others slashed as part of proposals to tackle the council’s £10.7million financial black hole.

In newly-published budget papers, all mention of reviewing the future of libraries has been removed - much to the delight of campaigning residents and councillors.

Despite the good news, political wrangling has continued with Southend’s Labour party claiming they forced the Tory administration to go back on its proposals.

The city’s Tory group have claimed “there were no proposals to close libraries”.

Labour group leader, Daniel Cowan, said: “We were clear from the beginning that Labour would not accept any cuts or closures to library services in Southend, and although they’ve done it kicking and screaming, it seems the Tories have come around to our point of view.

“This is a welcome development but having broken their promise on weekly bin collections, the credibility of the Tories is shot so we know the only way to guarantee the future of libraries is to vote Labour in May.”

Labour Milton ward councillor, Maxine Sadza, added: “Libraries are so vital to our communities, offering so much more than a place to borrow books.

“Libraries are warm hubs, they support outreach for social care, host clubs, provide meeting places for community groups, and so much more.

“The Tories’ idea to close them was wrong from the start and would have ended up costing more than it saved.

“This is the right decision, but we will remain vigilant as they’ve shown their true colours when it comes to community assets and resources.”

Conservative council leader, Tony Cox, hit back at the claims stating the council had to consider all options.

He said: “We were being transparent that we need to do this, and everyone agreed that we are being transparent, we are bringing them forward. There were never any cuts for 2024 to 2025. In October we were preparing for the worst with some of the diligent work of the finance officers looking at refinancing and restructuring debt payments. We didn’t have to go through with some of the elements and in the draft budget, there were no proposals to cut libraries.

“They are simply gaslighting.”