FEARS have been raised that volunteers will be fast-tracked into Thurrock’s libraries.

A Thurrock Council report in March confirmed it is looking to “reduce staffing costs” at a number of the borough’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 saw more than 3,000 people sign a petition by the Save the Thurrock Libraries campaign group, and comic Russell Brand backing the Gazette’s campaign.

A number of “advice” sessions have been set up for borough libraries in May, for those seeking work experience and volunteer opportunities over the summer.

Campaigners fear the ball is now rolling to replace experienced staff with volunteers.

Julie Sorrell-Wilde, who led the Save Our Thurrock Libraries group, said: “This is so wrong.”

She added: “We should save the librarians jobs, and make sure they’re not used in any way to train volunteers and then dumped. That would be terrible.”

Councillor Roy Jones also played a big part in the campaign.

He said: “It was thought that the asking for volunteers was going to be a natural process, but it seems to be more progressed.”

He added: “I don’t like seeing services cut for those people most in need.”

A council spokesman insisted the volunteering event is annual and not linked to the proposed staffing cuts.