CONTRIBUTING £12.5million towards a new central library while cutting funding from branch libraries will save money in the long term, Southend Council has said.

Pooling resources with the University of Essex and South Essex College to build the new £27million Forum library, due to open on the site of the former Farringdon car park, Southend, in September, will give members of the public access to a state-of-the-art facility at less than half the cost to the taxpayer.

The alternative of updating Southend Central Library in Victoria Avenue, due to close when the Forum opens, to the same level would cost several million.

The proposed reduction in the number of branch libraries manned by paid council staff from six to two would save the council money every year, as it would reduce its wage bill.

Officers believe the cut would save the authority £378,000 over the next three years, 15 per cent of a total annual libraries budget of £3.2million.

The shake-up involves 29 staff, whose hours total just under 15 full-time equivalent posts, although the council is looking at ways to accommodate some of these posts elsewhere.

The money spent on the new Forum could not be used to pay their wages as staff need to be paid every year and the investment in the Forum is a one-off payment.