A CAMPAIGN group has launched a new ten-point plan outlining its new strategy to revive Essex libraries.

Community group SOLE fought Essex County Council’s proposals to close some libraries after County Hall drew up a strategy document in 2018 setting out plans to close 25 out of 74 libraries - and remove support for a further 18.

The council did a u-turn following the wave of protests and in May, the council’s new leader Kevin Bentley said no libraries would be shut.

However, this has been met with scepticism from SOLE members.

Now, ahead of a new strategy coming out later in the year, the group has published its Ten Point Plan for Essex Libraries.

Some of the key points include:

  • A long-term commitment to keeping libraries open
  • Making sure library users are listened to
  • Increasing paid, trained, library staff
  • Publishing a local development plan for every individual library.

The group said its concerns were cemented following the closure of Ramsey Community Library, near Harwich due to a lack of volunteers.

A spokesperson for SOLE said: “The county council regularly pointed to Ramsey as a flagship example of how a library can rely entirely on volunteers, now we can all see how wrong they were.

“Whatever happens in the new strategy the outsourcing plans must go.

“Plans for charity shop libraries are closure by stealth.”

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The council is due to hold its ‘Have your say sessions’ on Monday.

However, SOLE is expressing some concerns the sessions will be difficult for many people to attend.

A spokesman said: “The plans for the so-called ‘Have your say’ online sessions later this month are not likely to fill many people with confidence at all.

“With the sessions being in either the middle of the day or early evening, attendance will be difficult to impossible for those of us working, and/or caring for our families that day.

“We hope Essex County Council receives and engages positively with our ideas.

“We hope its leadership listens to the people of Essex as they prepare the new strategy.”

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We have been very clear to SOLE that no libraries have, or will, close.

“We share SOLE’s love of our libraries. We value the difference they make to our communities and we want to enhance and protect them.

“We are living in a different world because of the pandemic, so it is important that we revisit the role of libraries in communities and look ahead to what our library service might look like in the future,

“We are at the start of this journey, and we want residents to come along with us every step of the way and give us their ideas.

“The two online sessions on Monday will be about what principles we should adopt for the libraries service. We have already received some great feedback, ideas and questions. There will be plenty more opportunities for people to have their say.”

To join, get tickets at bit.ly/390zfp4.