OPENING hours are being cut at libraries across south Essex to save nearly £2million a year.

Essex County Council is slashing the hours at 51 of its libraries from July 4, with a loss of 21 jobs across the county.

Although no libraries are closing, none will open on Sundays and those currently open until 7pm, enabling people to visit after work, will close earlier.

Billericay and Pitsea libraries will each open for 13 fewer hours a week, Vange for ten fewer hours, Basildon for nine less and Wickford for seven. Laindon’s hours won’t change.

In Castle Point, Canvey and Hadleigh libraries will each open six fewer hours and Great Tarpots for one less. South Benfleet will be closed on Mondays, but increase its opening times throughout the week to retain its hours.

Rochford library will open for 20 fewer hours, Rayleigh for 14 fewer, Hockley for ten fewer, Hullbridge for 12 fewer and Great Wakering for four.

A six-week public consultation was held on the topic earlier this year and received 27,000 responses from library-users. It found, in most cases, the majority of customers shared a clear preference for the new opening times, enabling the council to implement the most popular options.

However, in some the majority weren’t happy with the proposed options and the authority said it will consider the feedback.

Jeremy Lucas, county councillor responsible for environment and culture, said: “I am pleased to be able to say we have been able to honour the will of the respondents to the consultation.

“We are still keen to work with other public sector organisations or community groups which may have suggestions for funding or in-kind support which may enable us to keep libraries open for longer.

“We continue to welcome any suggestions of this type.”