PLANNED cuts would cripple Southend's museums service and damage the chances of the Sadxon King remains coming back to the town, it has been claimed.
The Friends of Southend Museums are furious about Southend Council's budget proposals, which are aimed at saving £94,000 in employee costs.
Three members of staff will lose their jobs and a fourth position would not be filled following a retirement last November. Opening times at Prittlewell Priory and Southchurch Hall museums will be cut from five days a week to two and three respectively. The staff cuts represent almost a third of the department.
Michelle Maton, secretery of the Friends of Southend Museums, said: "This will result in the closure of buildings to the general public and for educational visits.
"The plan is to open Prittlewell Priory on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Southchurch Hall will only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, We are very concerned at the council's lack of support for the service." Ms Maton said when the Saxon King treasures came to the Central Museum in 2004, staff worked seven days a week to allow as many people as possible to see them.
The artefacts, discovered off Priory Crescent, are in storage at the Museum of London but the council has promised to bring them back to Southend for permanent display.
However, the specially-built exhibition centre required would cost millions of pounds. Ms Maton said: "If Southend Council does not show commitment to our heritage now, we believe there will be little chance of the treasures ever being returned to the town."
Council leader Anna Waite said the proposals had been made following a study of the use of the museums. She said a further review would be carried out later this year into the running of the museum service, particularly with reference to the Saxon King treasures.
She said before a final decision was made, views submitted by the public would be considered.