THE councillor in charge of a controversial plan to shut many of Essex’s libraries has explained why she is against people signing petitions to save them.

Susan Barker, County Cabinet Member for Customer and Corporate, also said she did expect there to be the degree of negative reaction to the plans, which were publicised last month.

But the Conservative, who has faced opposition from her own party on the matter, has stood her ground.

Mrs Barker said: “It is unfortunate it has been so negative. People are asking lots of questions. What I want is people to respond to the consultation – I don’t need people to sign a petition and that’s one of the reasons we are not putting petitions in libraries.

“And doing a petition just says ‘no’ – we don’t want people just to say no.”

She added: “I think if you sign a petition, you feel you have done your bit but that’s not what we want. We want people to go online or get a paper copy and tell us their ideas. “

Last week the Gazette revealed petitions aimed at saving the county’s libraries have been banned from inside the buildings after campaigner John Akker MBE tried to put one in West Mersea’s library.

Mrs Barker also said such petitions were “uncomfortable for staff”.

She was asked why she felt library staff would feel uncomfortable with the petitions to save the service, yet their jobs could be at risk under the plans.

But she said: “No decision has been made any jobs until we have the answers from the consultation.”

Under the plans, many of the libraries could be kept open if volunteers are happy to run them.

Mrs Barker denied this aspiration could be unrealistic, a claim which has been made by many campaigners who say paid staff with expertise should still work in them.

Mrs Barker said in East Sussex six out of seven libraries earmarked for closure had been taken over by volunteers.

Conservatives in Essex have also voiced opposition to closures in their own communities.

And last week Colchester borough councillors from across the political spectrum unanimously supported a motion which asked the county council to stop the consultation and closure plan.

But Mrs Barker admitted had she attended an Uttlesford Council meeting and voted in favour of a motion to save libraries in Thaxted and Stansted.

“I don’t want any communities that have library services to not have library services but some library buildings are old and not fit for purpose and we can’t spend the money on them,” she added.

Essex County Council says the proposals, if agreed, could save it £2million.

Mrs Barker they are not about saving money and ideally as many as 30,000 people will respond to the consultation.

The council’s plans are part of a major shake up of all the county’s 74 libraries.

The council says “traditional” library use has collapsed in the last ten years and book loans have reduced significantly.

It wants to move to a more online focused service.

A 12-week consultation into the plans runs until February 20, 2109.