Campaigners challenged Essex County Council over whether libraries will be used as a “sanctuary” from the cold during the cost of living crisis.

Campaign group Save our Libraries Essex (SOLE) has written to Cllr Louise McKinlay, the deputy council leader and councillor responsible for libraries, asking what plans are in place for the cost of living crisis this winter.

Charity Libraries Connected has said more people have been going to libraries to "just sit" with 81% of library services expect to see an increase in people using libraries to keep warm this coming winter.

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Andy Abbott, from SOLE, said in his letter: "With energy prices sky rocketing and the colder months approaching, many people will be struggling to afford heating and looking to find sanctuary from the cold.

“We are aware of library services around the country preparing to deal with this need, including providing additional furniture and increasing opening hours."

"What plans does Essex County Council/Essex Library Services have to deal with this crisis?"

As well as warmth, Libraries Connected points to free opportunities to charge devices, meet people, get information and advice, adding that libraries can also function as donation or distribution points for food, clothing, or hygiene banks.

In a statement a SOLE spokesperson added: "Libraries have a vital role to play as somewhere to go away from the cold.

“We have long campaigned for an increase in opening hours, and increasing opening hours is vital to deal with this crisis.

Epping Forest Guardian: Previous SOLE campaigns. Pictures: Andy AbbottPrevious SOLE campaigns. Pictures: Andy Abbott

“Yes, local authorities and libraries will also find this crisis very challenging, so we support the call for national government to provide extra funding to support library services at this difficult time.”

Essex County Council did not confirm whether any steps will be taken with libraries.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “We are working on a package of practical support measures to help Essex communities with the cost of living.

“The role of libraries will be considered as part of this, but this is a potential component of a much wider package.”