CAMPAIGNERS have challenged figures published by Essex County Council which show how many people signed petitions opposed to library closures and reduced services.

The figures, published ahead of a County Hall meeting today, reveal 58,245 signatures were made across 53 petitions.

The data has been broken down into petitions representing individual libraries and those jointly submitted between libraries.

Others listed, such as five petitions from SOLE (Save our Essex Libraries), represent libraries in general.

Wivenhoe library is listed as having just 16 signatures on one petition, despite strong opposition voiced by residents.

And Brightlingsea library is not listed at all.

Prettygate library has 28 signatures on one petition.

Wivenhoe resident and campaigner Rosalind Scott said more than 1,200 signatures came from the town’s online petition and at least 200 more on paper.

Brightlingsea’s petitions had more than 500 signatures.

Mrs Scott added: “We also sent the transcripts of all the ribbons written at Wivenhoe library expressing wishes for the Wivenhoe library.

“I am mystified as to what this table refers to. Is it possible the council has lost all of these?

“How many more have been ignored across Essex?

“I fear that Essex County Councillors are determined not to listen to the wishes of Essex residents.

“We want the libraries to remain open, staffed by librarians, part of the Essex libraries network. We agree that they need investment to make sure they meet the needs of the community, with more access and encouraging community use. We are pleased to volunteer to enhance the community offer. But we know the value of books and computer access as well as the expertise and help of paid staff.

“Only by some strange manipulating of the figures to pretend that no one cares for their libraries are councillors giving themselves permission to ignore their statutory duty to provide a good library service, encourage learning and address social isolation. “

The council wants to close Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe libraries unless volunteers are willing it run them.

Colchester councillor for Prettygate Sue Lissimore said: “Whilst that was great what the people did in gathering signatures, the most important thing was for people to complete the consultation.”

Tory Mrs Lissimore said one of the reasons she resigned in January, as a county cabinet member, was to ensure people filled in the consultation which will impact on how libraries are run.

“A petition doesn’t say what people want.”

It is proposing a shake-up of all of its 74 libraries, which will save it £2 million. A third face total closure.

A 12-week consultation ended last month with a decision due later this year.

But a council spokesman said the figures showed the only petitions they have received to date.
She said: “We recognise the passion and concern of those that organised and signed these petitions.

"In line with our petitions policy, all petitions related to the library service consultation received between November 29 lsat year and February 21 this year will be considered as responses to the consultation. 

“Petitions received after February 21 will be dealt with in line with the policy, they will be acknowledged and responded to according to their size.”