MORE than 600 campaigners marched the streets in another attempt to save the county’s precious libraries.

Campaigners from Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) raised their voices outside County Hall.

A Carnival of Libraries was held in Chelmsford, which included music and entertainment. The main event was the march from the Saracen’s Head pub to Essex County Council’s headquarters at County Hall.

Essex County Council wants to shut a third of its libraries, while it hopes volunteers will run others, in a bid to save £2 million.

The plans show 19 libraries in Essex are earmarked to be run by community groups. It could affect libraries in Prettygate, Stanway, Wivenhoe, Mersea and Tiptree.

The county council has been accused of a lack of transparency over its plans after news emerged of a ‘secret’ briefing delivered to councillors.

SOLE campaigners said cabinet member responsible for overseeing the plans, Susan Barker, failed to respond to their request for details of a meeting.

Colchester SOLE spokesperson, Katy Vargas, said: “This secret briefing is sadly indicative of the lack of transparency and contempt for the public which has characterised this whole process.

“We have tried to ask councillors for information but they’ve told us they aren’t allowed to give us any.”

The wind and rain did not stop the hundreds of campaigners, including parents and children, parading around the town centre.

Josefine Backman-Juliff, 11, and her mum, Pia, from Colchester, were defending all libraries across Essex.

Pia said: “When Josefine heard about the library plans she was very upset, she has been standing outside libraries at the weekend handing out leaflets.

“Hamilton Primary School where she goes has been very supportive and has let her wear a badge.

“She has a voice and she is using it.”

Josefine gave a speech outside County Hall, she has also made campaign videos which have had thousands of views.

She said: “I want to have children one day and if there are no libraries I won’t be able to make memories there like I did with my parents.”

Another family came to defend Holland Library, which is earmarked for closure.

They said: “Our library is an important part of our community, it is well used and there are always groups there. We use it on a regular basis.”

Another mother, who brought her three-year-old son to the demonstration, said: “I work for a local charity and I know the impact of social isolation and the importance of community hubs.”

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “It is important to remember no decisions have been made.

“Over 21,000 responses to the official consultation were received, expressing views both for and against elements of the strategy.

“We need to take time to consider these fully before making any decisions.

“After the full analysis of the survey results is completed, the final version of the strategy will be presented to cabinet later this year.”

The county council defended its position on being transparent over libraries plans.

An Essex County Council spokesperson added: “The allegation by SOLE of a lack of transparency and a ‘secret’ briefing is incorrect. Information is often shared with councillors in private sessions to enable their input into proposals and policy before publication. It is a shame SOLE misinterpreted the briefing in this way but we are happy to correct their assumptions.

“We are also surprised SOLE has not sought a meeting with the cabinet member leading the libraries consultation to discuss their issues.

“We are finalising the engagement and publication of the final strategy. This process will be transparent.”