A CAMPAIGN group has called for volunteers to withdraw their offers of running Essex libraries for free.

Last month Essex County Council withdrew its proposal to close a third of its libraries, expanding on a plan for ‘community libraries”.

Sole – Save Our Libraries Essex – has released information packs for councils asking them to rethink their decision in urging people to volunteer in order to keep libraries open.

The move comes after community groups in Coggeshall, Harlow, Holland-on-Sea and Chigwell withdrew their offer to run libraries.

The newly released packs say County Hall will offer community libraries a grant of £18,000 for three years, which may not be enough to cover the costs.

Sole condemned County Hall libraries boss Susan Barker’s proposal, claiming community groups would not only be responsible for staffing and fully running libraries, but housing them as well.

A spokesman said: “The purpose of our information pack is to ensure every single community group thinking of volunteering knows they no longer have to as a last resort to save their library.”

The group said: “We see Councillor Barker has said she’s ‘confused’ as to why community groups are withdrawing expressions of interest.

“She’s put a gun to people’s heads and demanded they run their local library, or their local library would close. Now she’s put her gun away for at least five years and said no library will close in that time, it does seem astonishing she finds this in any way confusing.”

The spokesperson added: “At no stage have we see any member of the ruling group on the council prepare to rebel against their leadership.

“Political careers are put before principle. However, the people’s power of protest has already forced the council into one U-turn.

“We will keep up the pressure to ensure further U-turns follow, and we are staging a county wide day of action with events across Essex on September 28.”

County council leader David Finch said: “I’m very clear that the library service will continue and that we will continue to operate the library service, with or without volunteers.”