THE leader of Thurrock Council says he “never seriously” considered closing any of the borough’s libraries, despite being an option on a consultation about the future of the service.

Last night, Councillor John Kent announced that no libraries in the borough would be closing following weeks of campaigning by residents against any closures.

He also made an unexpected announcement by saying a new library will open in Purfleet – taking the number of libraries in the borough to 10. A consultation looking at ways to save £500,000 suggested one way was to close some of the libraries in the borough when it launched last month.

This led to public outcry and the Save our Thurrock Libraries group collecting over 3,000 signatures in support of keeping all libraries in the borough open.

A campaign by the Gazette to save the libraries – which was backed Grays boy and comic Russell Brand - also saw huge support from the community.

The consultation also asked to consider proposals from local communities to run their local libraries and seek funding to support them.

It remains to be seen how the council will make the £500,000 saving, with a further announcement next month, but the mobile library service will be shut down.

Speaking at a council meeting last night, Mr Kent said the council was facing unprecedented financial pressures and had to look at every option and he was pleased “to see people are interested and are ready to fight for our libraries”.

Mr Kent said there had been over 3,500 responses to the consultation – as well as three questions and three petitions presented at the meeting. He said: “We went out asking for people’s ideas and boy did they let us know.”

He added: “I called in top officers from across the council to my office and asked a simple question: What can we do to provide a library service affordable and fit for the 21 century across Thurrock? The answer might surprise people.

“In the end we came up with a proposition, one we will merge with the proposals from the consultation, but I can say here tonight that, without a doubt, not only will no libraries close, a new tenth Thurrock library will open to serve the people of Purfleet, an area sadly lacking for too long as far as this service is concerned.”

Mr Kent said: “It won’t be a complete library to start with, it will be based in the old housing office on the Garrison estate and some library services will be there and others will follow.

“But there are plans for Purfleet, exciting plans, and it is my aim to ensure that those plans take this embryonic library and create something the people there will be proud to use and call their own.”