Essex library campaigners prepare legal challenge
Campaigners fighting to save libraries across Essex are preparing a legal challenge and have urged community groups to withdraw their offers to run the service.
Revised plans for the future of Essex’s libraries was given the green light earlier this week. Under the proposals, the council has promised no libraries will close in the next five years.
The original proposals could have seen 25 libraries closed and of the 49 staying open, 19 could have been run by community groups. However, it will look to set up community-run libraries, which will be given a grant of £18,000 split across three years.
Campaigners have instructed leading law firm Watkins and Gunn to give legal advice for a potential legal challenge. It is understood to have received 80 expressions of interest from groups willing to take on 39 libraries across the county. None of the expressions of interest are binding and groups must come forward to make formal applications. But Save our Libraries Essex said it was concerned groups had only come forward as they faced their library being closed imminently.
A spokesman said: “Closing library buildings and moving libraries into pubs – as suggested by one councillor – and sacking library staff and having libraries run by volunteers is not sustainable. “Nor is having book stocks replenished by donation. It is a closure plan by stealth. We have no doubt many groups only volunteered to run libraries because their local library faced imminent closure. We would now urge such groups to withdraw their offers. It’s not their job to house and run a library. It is Essex County Council’s responsibility.”
County Hall’s libraries boss Susan Barker said: “The decision to approve the future libraries strategy follows months of engagement, public consultation and significant work to ensure we have a service fit for a modern age. We understand people are keen to know what will happen to their local library and now that the final strategy has been approved we can get to work on developing more detailed plans, which will enable us to develop work with communities which will shape the future of local libraries. We hope to share these plans in the autumn.”
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford & Mid Essex Times
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