CONTROVERSIAL plans to shut libraries or staff them with volunteers have been stopped – just a day after new leaders took over at Southend Council.

The new Independent, Labour and Lib Dem administration has already put the wheels in motion to stop staff being axed from libraries across the borough and has told council officers to come up with alternatives.

The previous Tory administration put in place changes in a bid to save £378,000 over three years.

Lib Dem Graham Longley, the new councillor responsible for enterprise, tourism and economic regeneration, instructed officers to put them on hold just a day after the new administration officially took over at last Thursday’s full council meeting.

Mr Longley said: “On Friday, I issued instructions to stop work on the library proposals.

“There is no time period at the moment. We will wait for officers to come backwith alternatives ways we can complete on the proposals or preferably new alternatives that the public would be happy with.

“It is too early to pre-empt the decision.

“What we said between the parties was there would be a review of cabinet proposals.

“It will be an open review with three alternatives – to leave the proposals alone, look at little changes or reorganise them. We will need to look at the implications of keeping them going, including financial issues.

“It is a question of priorities, but we will be keeping an open mind to new proposals or changes to the proposals if that’s the way forward.”

Under the previous Tory administration’s plans, Westcliff and Southchurch libraries would be run by volunteers, with a limited number of paid staff at Leigh and Kent Elms libraries.

Thorpedene and Friars libraries, in Shoebury, were set to close, with a new library in Delaware Road replacing them.

The plans would see up to 45 per cent of jobs going.

A review into the shake-up of the service took 15 months.

David Webb, from the Westborough Community Association, who has campaigned about the changes to Westcliff Library, said: “It has already been through consultation, scrutiny and full council and it was decided the libaries should be run largely by volunteers.

“However, I welcome the decision to halt the process.

“It would be good to have the use of fully-trained staff at all six main libraries if it was possible, but that is in an ideal world and savings do have to be made.”