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Fourth community group pulls out of bid to save county's libraries

PUBLISHED: 16:45 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:46 06 August 2019

Four community groups have withdrawn offers to run libraries in Essex as campaigns against closures continue Picture: WILLIAM PRIOR / SAVE OUR LIBRARIES ESSEX

Four community groups have withdrawn offers to run libraries in Essex as campaigns against closures continue Picture: WILLIAM PRIOR / SAVE OUR LIBRARIES ESSEX

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The fate of libraries across Essex continues to hang in the balance - with community groups which had planned to take over four centres withdrawing their offers.

Billy Bragg, David Walliams and Dame Jacqueline Wilson are the famous faces backing the campaign to save Essex libraries. Pictures: (L-R) SARAH LUCY BROWN, FIONA HANSON/PA WIRE and TIM IRELAND/PA WIREBilly Bragg, David Walliams and Dame Jacqueline Wilson are the famous faces backing the campaign to save Essex libraries. Pictures: (L-R) SARAH LUCY BROWN, FIONA HANSON/PA WIRE and TIM IRELAND/PA WIRE

The news comes after Essex County Council's U-turn on library closures in favour of allowing community groups to take control of some of the county's least-used libraries.

It seemed the move may have been a solution to a highly contested issue - with 80 submitting interest - but it has now emerged four groups have since withdrawn their Expressions of Interest to run a library (EoI).

Included in the four were groups looking to take over libraries in Coggeshall and Holland-on-Sea.

Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE), a group campaigning against library closures in the county, claims the plans are not good-willed.

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Tracey Vickers, who led the group eyeing Coggeshall Library, said they withdrew their offer as they felt it was being "misrepresented as support for the proposals".

In a statement SOLE said: "Community groups are starting to realise it would be an unsustainable burden to not only run a library but house it as well, with just an £18,000 grant over three years from the council.

"After that so-called 'community libraries' would be left to run the lot without support. It would be their job to raise enough money, buy every book, pay every bill, find every volunteer.

"We are sure many others will follow this lead and withdraw their EoIs... In the end it's not their job to house and run a library. It is Essex County Council's statutory duty."

Howwever, the council continues to highlight the positive impacts of the move, adding that three more community takeover proposals have since been submitted. A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "We have been open and transparent throughout the work on our future libraries strategy and to date, have received 80 Expressions of Interest (EoI) from local groups and organisations.

"Following approval of the strategy, we are in discussion with many of these groups who are keen to help us shape and further develop detailed plans on a local level.

"Groups are able to withdraw an EoI at any time and we are more than happy to address any queries or concerns about the process should they wish to get in touch with us directly."

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