Libraries across Essex have been saved from closure for another five years, it has been announced today.

Last year Essex County Council unveiled plans to close 25 libraries across the county.

Of the 49 which would remain, 19 could be staffed and run by community groups if volunteers come forward.

Essex County Council had labelled each library into four categories, tiers one and two meant libraries would remain open and managed by the council.

Libraries falling into the tier three category faced an uncertain future but would continue if a community organisation or partner steps forward to run them.

Tier four libraries faced closure.

At a meeting of full council this morning leader David Finch announced no libraries would be closing.

During Essex County Council’s (ECC) Full Council meeting today, Tuesday July 9, Essex County Council’s Leader Cllr David Finch announced radical changes to the libraries strategy.

A statement released by Essex County Council said: “Before the final strategy is published next week Cllr Finch acknowledged that we have listened to what communities said they wanted and needed.

“Next Monday ECC will publish its final libraries strategy for approval at Cabinet on Tuesday, July 23.

“The strategy has been finalised following a comprehensive consultation on the draft strategy. The consultation took place between November 2018 and January 2019.”

The council received over 21,000 responses, over 1000 letters and over 50 petitions during the consultation period with residents expressing their outrage at the closures.

The new strategy is to focus on two key elements; developing an investment plan to improve libraries and support community groups or other partners to set up community run libraries.

Save Our Libraries Essex, tweeted their delight at the news, saying: “SOLE welcomes @essex_CC ‘s announcement that no libraries will close. We have always argued that every single library should stay open, so it is a testament to the power of our grassroots campaign that ECC has finally conceded this point.

“It is the people of Essex who deserve the credit for forcing this climbdown. However, we are yet to receive any assurances that all libraries will retain their professional staff, as well as buildings, stock, IT resources, and other essentials.”

Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet member for customer, communities, culture and corporate said: “Our future libraries strategy has changed drastically due to what the people of Essex told us. I am delighted that the consultation ignited such passion for keeping the service alive.

“We assured everyone that their feedback would be taken into account, and it has- all our libraries now have a future.

“This is a new, exciting chapter for libraries in Essex. It will be a service fit for the 21 century that is genuinely in the hands of communities and local users, who can help mould it to what they want and need.

“I look forward to sharing the full detail of the strategy with the people of Essex next week.”

The future libraries strategy will be published on Monday, July 15, as part of the agenda pack for Scrutiny and Cabinet.

The strategy will be discussed at Place Services and Economic Growth Policy Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, July 18, before a decision on the strategy is made at Cabinet on 23 July.

The Leader’s Executive, also released a statement following the news, saying: “As Conservatives, we firmly believe in ensuring every resident has a greater say on the things that affect their local communities.

“How their local areas are developed, shaped for the future, and to give them authority in decision making about where they live.

“This administration has a strong and exemplary track record in this area already and is actively devolving critical services as close to the public as possible.

“We shall now invest in all our libraries over the next five years in a new Strategy. We will ensure we are at the forefront of technology and keep pace with a fast-moving world, where e-books, apps, and websites are rapidly replacing traditional book lending. But we will maintain book lending for people who want that service.

“We shall also ensure our library buildings become more adaptable for community use, working with other organisation to co-locate and make it much easier for people to access a broad spectrum of services.

“There will be more of a modern feel, where you can continue to access the internet at superfast speeds and where you can meet up with friends, socialise, and learn new things. Being fair and equitable is at the heart of everything this Conservative Administration does.

“So, the consultation has worked and galvanised people’s love of libraries. It must continue, and we will now work to ensure that it does.

“Essex is a great county and offers great chances in education, skills, jobs, and homes. Our libraries service plays a vital part in that and we will invest in it’s future and that of the people of Essex.”