HOW pleasing it is to see Essex County Council’s U-turn on the future of Essex libraries.

A matter of months ago, the council was planning to close at least a third of the county’s libraries arguing the move would save £2 million and better reflect the change in reading habits by the county’s population.

Yesterday, council leader David Finch said the consultation had “galvanized a love of libraries” and said the demonstrations and protest marches were “just what we wanted”.

It is hard to believe this is what the county council truly wanted.

In fact, it is probably true to say what they really wanted was to get the cost-saving exercise through on the nod without any opposition.

Full marks should go to the residents who stood up for what they believe in, for saying: “We will not accept this decision” and for shouting long enough and loudly enough to ensure they could not be ignored.

The county council is faced with an unenviable task of balancing its books against the background of a major drop in income from the Government.

But the county council is elected by the people, for the people.

And their Conservative Party colleagues in Government are the ones making life so miserable for local authorities.

Taxpayers have every right to express their views on how their money is spent.

So today is a day to celebrate freedom of speech and the ability to demonstrate.

The fight is not over, the detail has not been determined, but it’s round one to democracy.