A PETITION to save a village library from the axe has been handed in at County Hall with more than 650 signatures on it.

Silver End and county councillor James Abbott presented the petition with other representatives in Chelmsford on Tuesday.

Libraries in Silver End, Kelvedon and Hatfield Peverel are all at risk of closure as the county council looks to save £3.7million.

Coggeshall Library could be run by volunteers.

Mr Abbott said: “Essex County Council is statutorily obliged to run a library service so the motion basically says that given the scale of the cuts proposed – that is the direct closure of a defined number of libraries, plus another tranche of libraries which could be closed unless volunteers come forward – they are not delivering their statutory duty.

“We will be exploring the juxtaposition between the county council’s apparent desire to save money on libraries against its profligacy in other areas including London lawyers.

“The council is a very corporate entity and a very ivory tower entity without much empathy for local communities.

“It claims it does, but if you look at what it has done to youth services, children’s centres and now libraries, they take money out of those areas but always find money for those other corporate areas and this is really impacting on local communities.

“Sometimes it comes down to choices – do you want to spend millions of pounds on well-heeled lawyers. Or do you want to keep the libraries open?

“If you took a poll on the street I’d think you’d get a fairly high proportion on the latter.”

The county council announced a consultation in November on whether to close a third of the county’s libraries, with the potential for 19 to be run voluntarily.

Council bosses say there are 31 per cent fewer people using Essex libraries now than in 2008 – more than 100,000 fewer active users – and loans of books and other items are down by 52 per cent.

Council leader David Finch said: “The network of libraries in Essex will absolutely meet the council’s statutory responsibility to provide a comprehensive service.

“We are never profligate in our responsibility to ensure Essex taxpayer’s interests are protected. If this means hiring the best legal minds available, that is what we must do.

“Councillor Abbott is unfortunately wrong in his description of where efficiency savings have been found across the council. All areas of our business have contributed to the savings we have achieved.

“This would, unfortunately, be a rather misleading straw poll, as we aim to create a library service which fits how people live today, not how they did 20 years ago.”