THE leader of Thurrock Council has spoken for the first time about feared job losses in the borough’s libraries – and warns they could still be closed.

As reported in the Gazette last week, a council report has confirmed that it is looking to “reduce staffing costs” at a number of Thurrock’s nine libraries by introducing more volunteer workers as part of plans to save £569,000.

It came after the council declared no libraries in the borough would close following a huge outcry from the public, which sawmore than 3,000 people sign a petition by the Save the Thurrock Libraries campaign group, and comic Russell Brand backing the Gazette’s campaign.

Council leader John Kent has since said, however, there is no guarantee the libraries will stay open past the next couple of years due to continuing Government cuts.

He said: “While central government continues to slash and burn, local authorities are fighting the fire to the best of their ability. Some have closed libraries – we have worked hard tomake surewe don’t have to do that next year and I believe we have a model that will be sustainable for some time to come.”

But Mr Kent added he could make no promises for a long-term future with an election around the corner.

He said: “With our Government funding slashed by £36million, it is inevitable that jobs are at risk – it’s not just libraries.

“Nearly every public sector employee in the country is under pressure. If they are not in danger of losing their job, they are having to deal with increased workloads and working with fewer colleagues to support them. It is sad, but libraries and library staff are no exception to this.”