The new leader of Essex County Council says there will be no library closures –a stark U-turn after years of turmoil and one of the council’s most controversial plans. 

Hundreds of campaigners marched through the streets after the council proposed closing 25 libraries with a further 19 at risk.

A public consultation into the move received 21,000 responses, more than 1,000 letters and more than 50 petitions.

County Hall then revised its position and said no libraries would close until at least 2024.

The council’s new leader, Kevin Bentley, has now announced no libraries will close at all.

Save Our Libraries Essex – the main campaign group against library closures – believe that the threat of many libraries morphing into community hubs manned by volunteers remains.

Mr Bentley said: “No libraries will close.

“They want to become more than they are at the moment and become community hubs, places that people can go – relax, read and learn.

“That is essential.

“They have proved to be great resources of excellence for people and I want that to continue.

“There will be professional staff there.”

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Mr Bentley added: “I wouldn’t rule out volunteers because everyone has a part to play.

“If people want to volunteer and help people alongside professional staff they should be allowed to do so.”

However, the announcement has been met with scepticism from the campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex.

It said while the decision is positive, it believes the threat remains of many libraries morphing into community hubs manned by volunteers.

Andy Abbott, from SOLE, said: “He was also talking about so-called community hubs and libraries and this policy has not changed.

“These charity shop libraries, as far as SOLE is concerned, is a closure plan by stealth because it means the smaller library buildings will be sold off, the staff got rid of and voluntary groups will be expected to house and run the libraries.

“We do not believe this is a sustainable plan.

“If my local at Broomfield goes, the staff are rid of and the library moved into the local pub – as far as I’m concerned that’s not a library anymore.”