CAMPAIGNERS have accused County Hall of being “hellbent on its entirely unsustainable plan” to have community run libraries.

Essex County Council said last week it would not be shutting any libraries after thousands of people campaigned against the plans.

Under the original plans 25 libraries could have closed and of the 49 staying open, 19 could have been run by community groups.

The new plan means the council will not close any libraries in the next five years.

But as part of the new strategy it is expected volunteers and community groups will have to take over the running of a number of centres.

As yet there is no detail on which libraries would be community-run and when it would start.

The council has said it received 80 expressions of interest by groups willing to take on 39 libraries across the county

To help community groups it will offer a grant of £18,000 over three years, an initial donation of books and training for staff.

In a statement Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) said: “SOLE said the devil would be in the detail. However, there remains a distinct lack of detail and transparency.

“Many people across the county will be wondering if their library is about to see its librarians sacked, and taken over by volunteers.

“And if their library is about to be taken over, who will be taking it over?

“Many groups will have only come forward as their library faced imminent closure. Will even their local library building be sold off for a fast buck? People should have the right to know all this.

“It seems Essex County Council is hell-bent on its entirely unsustainable plan to run at least 60 per cent of our libraries, and perhaps more, voluntarily without paid staff.

“With just £18,000 available per library across three years - then each library will be left to fend for itself - this condemns at least 60 per cent of our libraries to a closure plan by stealth.

“People power last week won an important victory, because many local libraries would be facing the chop before the end of summer if people had not taken to the streets of their towns and villages.

“It is now essential we keep that pressure up to stop a county council so committed to this act of cultural vandalism.”

Essex County Council said it would not comment on the concerns raised by SOLE.

The council’s Cabinet will vote on the proposals next week.