CAMPAIGNERS who insist libraries across Essex remain under threat are set to embark on a mammoth march ending at County Hall.

Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) fears Essex County Council is pushing ahead with a “closure by stealth” of its libraries.

Last year, Essex County Council backtracked after a plan to close 25 of the county’s libraries sparked outrage.

The authority instead pledged not to close any libraries for five years and to pump £3million of investment into the service.

It still hopes to set up 19 community-run libraries.

Supporters of SOLE will take a week-long tour of several of the county’s libraries, undertaking a march starting at Manningtree Library and ending at County Hall, in Chelmsford.

Under the council’s proposals, Manningtree Library would be run by volunteers.

A SOLE spokesman said: “Not enough people are yet aware their libraries remain under threat after the people-powered victory last year to prevent a third of our libraries closing imminently.

“So we are going across the county to raise awareness that libraries in Essex remain in grave danger.

“Plans to sell off local library buildings, get rid of the staff and have libraries housed and run by volunteers is a closure plan by stealth.

“These charity shop libraries will not work.”

He added: “Any fall in use in Essex is to be blamed entirely on Essex County Council cuts, who’ve set our libraries up to fail.

“Opening hours have been reduced and the number of books has gone down by nearly a third - half a million books gone in the last decade.”

The march will start at 11am at Manningtree Library on Saturday, July 18.

On the first day it will end at Brightlingsea Library and on Sunday campaigners will move on to Colchester Library via Wivenhoe Library.

Groups will then take in several other libraries on the way to the final destination at County Hall on Saturday, July 25.

An Essex County Council spokesman said the group is campaigning against a threat that doesn’t exist.

“Essex’s libraries are staying open,” he said.

“We want to encourage everybody who loves libraries to visit them and take part in the groups or activities held in them to make them even more vibrant community hubs.”

He added: “We’ve already upgraded public computers in all 74 libraries and we’ll be investing more than £3million over the next five years to modernise and refurbish them, with £1.1million more already committed this year including £130,000 more on new book stock.”