OPENING hours of south Essex libraries could be slashed in a bid to save cash.

District councillors are worried as Essex County Council proposals to cut opening hours would be a big blow to their areas.

If proposals are approved, Hockley library could go from being open 44 hours a week to 34.

Hullbridge library could be open nearly half the time, as County Hall bosses look to chop the weekly opening hours from 30 to 16.

While Rayleigh library could open 48 hours per week rather than 60 hours and the new Rochford library’s hours being slashed from 54 to 34 each week.

Terry Cutmore, Rochford District Council leader, said: “The proposals are disappointing and we will respond quite robustly.

“The district’s libraries are very well used and have all sorts of things going on in them, from council meetings to dance clubs.”

Keith Gordon, Rochford district councillor responsible for leisure, arts and culture, said: “All councils are having to look at their budgets and we are thankful they are not closing any libraries.

“But if libraries are opening later and closing earlier, people will have to change their lifestyles.

“It is upsetting because they are popular facilities.”

Lesley Butcher, Rochford district councillor responsible for young people, adult services and community care, said: “Libraries are the hub of any community and it is very disappointing to hear.”

Today, the county council has launched a six-week consultation. Budget pressures mean savings must be made and changes to opening times are being looked at in relation to the population of each town or village.

No libraries will be closed down and the mobile library service will continue to travel to all the destinations it currently serves.

A total of 54 libraries will see a reduction in opening hours, with six more having to change opening hours. However, 13 will see no reduction or change to the pattern of opening hours.

For details on the consultation, visit from today.

No decisions have yet been made, according to the county council.

Jeremy Lucas, county councillor responsible for libraries, said: “Consultation is a crucial part of the reorganisation.

“We want to offer our customers the opportunity to express their preference for the pattern of opening that best suits their needs.”