Several General Election candidates showed their support for a library campaign group by visiting their information stall.

Supporters came from across the county to meet with Save Our Libraries Essex (S.O.L.E.) on Chelmsford High Street on Saturday, November 23.

Labour, Liberal-Democrat, and Green MP hopefuls joined campaigners in city centre information stall, an event opened to candidates from all parties.

In addition, over three hundred signatures were collected for S.O.LE.'s 'Save our librarians - no closures by stealth' petition.

A similar event was also held in Harlow town centre the same day, where over 100 signatures were collected for the campaign.

It follows S.O.L.E. writing to candidates around the county asking them if they agreed with their view that libraries need paid and trained staff with dedicated library buildings.

They are also asking whether any groups that have submitted takeover bids for libraries should withdraw those bids because it is a 'closure plan by stealth'.

Chelmsford's Labour candidate Penny Richards said: “I am in agreement with both the principles you outline, this is a closure plan by stealth.

“Libraries and their highly professional staff play a vital role in communities. It is one of the last spaces people can go without having to spend money.'

“Losing the buildings and the service would leave young families without books to read, share and learn from, students a quiet space to study, and staff to guide those who need access and help to use digital resources.

Chelmsford Lib-Dem candidate Marie Goldman also added her agreement the position, saying: “Libraries are so important that it should be the statutory duty of local government to ensure that they are not only kept open, but also invested in for the future.

“Community volunteers play a crucial role in supporting local libraries and enhancing the services that they are able to offer, but local authorities should not try to place the burden of the day-to-day running of libraries on the shoulders of hard-working volunteers.”

Chelmsford's Conservative candidate Vicky Ford took a different view, saying: “Each Library is different in what it offers, but volunteers can be extremely beneficial. For example, Springfield library is extremely popular and very successful, it is also run entirely by volunteers.

“Therefore I believe that there should not be a one-sized fits all approach to the mix of professional and volunteer staff at every library, each should be considered on a case by case basis.”

Chelmsford SOLE's Andy Abbott has written back to Vicky Ford, saying: “It seems you may have been misinformed about ECC's [Essex County Council] proposals? Contrary to what you suggest, Springfield Library is not run by volunteers, it is run by ECC.

“S.O.L.E. in no way has a "negative approach...towards volunteers. We simply recognise that volunteering has limitations. Expecting volunteers to find a home for the library, then pay all its bills and cover all its staffing, is not sustainable. It is a closure plan by stealth.”