COLCHESTER Trades Union Council has accused County Hall bosses of ‘gagging’ library staff - although the council has dismissed the claims as ‘absolute rubbish’.

The body which represents trade unions in the town said it has demanded an explanation from Essex County Council after hearing staff have been banned from talking to councillors ahead of a campaign meeting Thursday tonight.

Tory councillors will meet campaigners at the Prettygate Pub in Colchester to discuss the potential closure of Prettygate Library by the county council.

Raph Pigott, Trades Council secretary, said: “Essex County Council has told its 440 library staff not to talk to anyone about the planned library closures.

“Staff have been told to refer inquiries to a telephone number. Managers are believed to be intimidating staff to stop them talking with Unison, or members of the public.

“It seems our overbearing councillors think it is acceptable to prevent staff campaigning to save their jobs.

“Gagging library staff prevents them, the best experts we have, from helping communities develop plans for running the libraries.”

John Lawrence, of Unison, addressed the Trades Union Council. He supposedly told the meeting County Hall bosses have told library staff not the speak to the public.

A demonstration in support of keeping libraries open will take place outside Colchester Town Hall on January 31.

Susan Barker, Essex County Councillor responsible for customers, said: “The information provided by the Colchester Trades Union Council is absolute rubbish. Of course we have not gagged our libraries staff, in fact we encourage them to help people find out about more about the proposals and access the survey.

“The survey is open to everyone, including our staff, so if they have comments to make on the proposals they can contribute their views by taking part.”