BRANCH libraries across Southend will remain open, council chiefs have promised.

The authority still hopes community groups will step forward to run Westcliff, Southchurch and Leigh or Kent Elms libraries under plans designed to save it £378,000 over three years.

But if too few people step forward to volunteer during a three-month public consultation, starting today, then the council has promised to go back to the drawing board – and not close libraries.

Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture, said: “I’m confident the branch library service will be active in the next few years.”

Library service manager Simon May said: “We won’t make any changes until we have someone to hand over to.”

Either Leigh or Kent Elms library will remain fully staffed while a community group is expected to run the other.

It is also hoped community groups will take the reins at Westcliff and Southchurch.

Meanwhile, the Central Library in Victoria Avenue, Southend, will close as planned in favour of the new £27million Forum Library, set to open on the site of the former Farringdon car park, in Southend, in September.

And Thorpedene and Friars libraries, in Shoebury, will close to be replaced by a new fully staffed hub library in Delaware Road.