CAMPAIGNERS have published the responses after asking Colchester Essex County Council candidates whether they'll vote to preserve the future of the county's libraries.

The Colchester branch of Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) asked all candidates for May’s election to set out their position on the facilities.

The future of libraries across Essex has been in doubt since 2018 when a County Hall strategy document set out plans to close 25 of 74 libraries and remove support for 18 more.

Campaigners efforts and wide-spread public backlash forced a rethink in the summer of 2019 when plans for the closures were ditched and a new strategy created.

However, the strategy still includes plans for some libraries to be run by volunteers, which have been called a “closure plan by stealth” by SOLE.

The campaign group asked each Colchester candidate for Tory-run County Hall whether they would vote to keep all libraries in Essex open, with paid and trained staff, and oppose community-run facilities.

Collective responses were received from the Green candidates who promised they would and called for space lost at Colchester Library to make room for council offices to be reversed.

The Lib Dems also said they would vote against any closures and said candidates "fully support keeping each and every library open and therefore will not support any cuts or closures.”

Labour candidates Lee Scordis, Dave Harris, Julie Young and Richard Bourne all promised to vote against any closures.

Ms Young said "no Essex Library will close under a Labour controlled Essex County Council".

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Three Tory candidates responded - Lewis Barber, Petra Crees and Kevin Bentley. Mr Barber and Ms Crees both said they would vote to keep libraries open.

Mr Bentley, who is deputy leader of Essex County Council and widely-tipped to take over from retiring leader David Finch after May, said: "It is Conservative policy to keep all Essex libraries open and there are absolutely no plans to close any of them.

"If a local group wanted to become more involved in running their local library, then we would listen to them and their offer, but in all cases trained staff would be in charge of the service.”

No responses were received from independents or candidates of other parties, though SOLE said in several cases it was not possible to find contact details.

SOLE spokesperson Katy Vargas said: "We are grateful to all those candidates who responded and particularly those who were willing to publicly commit to opposing the current administration’s plans to allow public libraries to be handed over to volunteers to fund and run.

“It is worrying Mr Bentley seems to have left the door open to moving to the wholly unsustainable so-called community library model.

"However, we hope by challenging candidates on the vital issue of so-called community libraries we have helped voters to make a more informed decision on May 6.”

You can view the full list of County Hall candidates at