A COMMUNITY group has withdrawn its offer to run Hullbridge Library on a voluntary basis, citing concerns over a “stealth closure”.

Friends of Hullbridge Library (FOHL) had submitted an interest in running the library in a bid to stop it being closed under initial plans put forward by Essex County Council.

But with concerns that volunteers will be left to run the libraries with no professional support - which campaigners have branded “closure by stealth” - the community group has withdrawn their offer.

Tony Pennock, group secretary, said: “Having discussed this in committee, and with our members, I reconfirmed that we had absolutely no desire, or intention, of supporting the development of a community library in Hullbridge and requested that any expression of interest be retracted with immediate effect and that all public notices that indicated that Hullbridge may be interested in having a community library, be updated to reflect this.

“We believe that the only effective way to provide library provision is via the Essex Library Service with properly trained staff and appropriate resources in the existing library, which should be upgraded as a community investment rather than demolished and sold off.

“We therefore asked for the continuation of full management and financial support for Hullbridge Library by Essex County Council, as it must fulfil its statutory obligations to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, as directed by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.” Campaigns group across the county will be holding a day of action on September 28, urging groups to follow in FOHL’s lead.

Demonstrations will take place in Broomfield, Galleywood, Manningtree and other locations, while details of a demonstration in Castle Point are still being finalised.

A Save Our Libraries Essex spokesman added: “The latest withdrawal of a takeover bid should send a clear message to Essex County Council. Community groups only offered to house and run their libraries when a gun was held to their heads.”

“Now the council has put its gun away for at least five years, Essex County Council must stop trying to abandon its statutory duty. It is the council’s job to run a professional library service from its library buildings.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said community involvement is “the key” to revitalising libraries and said local people know best the needs of their communities.

He added: “It’s now up to communities to tell us how they want to be involved, and they are doing so. This is a dynamic process, with new expressions of interest in running libraries received over the summer.”