THE ex-boss of Waterstones has said a council must prioritise getting more people to use libraries.

But Tim Coates, a library campaigner, said failing to focus on reviving the service was just "prolonging the torture" of closing libraries.

Revised plans for the future of Essex’s libraries were given the green light last month.

Under the proposals, the council has promised no libraries will close in the next five years.

The original proposals would have seen 25 libraries closed and of the 49 staying open, 19 could have been run by community groups.

However, it will look to set up community-run libraries, which will be given a grant of £18,000 split across three years.

Mr Coates said: "The really essential part of a library strategy in Essex - or anywhere else- is to reverse the decline in use.

"It is perfectly possible to do that by concentrating on the strengths that libraries have in the eyes of people who might use them.

"But if we don't do that we are just prolonging the torture of closing the service - and wasting a lot of money by doing that."

Mr Coates words come as opposition councillors have called the decision into County Hall’s place services and economic growth policy and scrutiny committee.

The committee will be left with three options - to uphold the decision, refer it back to the decision maker or ask full council to review it.

The call-in has been made by Labour’s Julie Young, the Lib Dem’s Mike Mackrory and Chris Pond of Loughton Residents Association.

The trio have outlined 16 reasons why they are unhappy with the decision.

They are arguing the strategy document failed to address the need to have at least one permanent member of staff and did not give clarity regarding the criteria for revisiting the strategy in the event of “continuing decline”.

A spokesman for ECC said: XX