CAMPAIGNERS gatecrashed ‘secret’ meetings between Essex County Council and groups looking to take over libraries.

Members of Save Our Libraries Essex (Sole) leafleted outside two of four secret meetings which took place between the county council and groups who have put in expressions of interest to run libraries.

The leaflets sought to dissuade groups from continuing with library takeover bids which Sole describes as a “closure plan by stealth”.

A meeting took place at Greenstead Library in Colchester.

A Sole spokesman said: “Essex County Council managers seemed most alarmed when they saw us outside these secret meetings.

“They’re obviously unhappy we have found out about these events, albeit at late notice which limited our response.

“In Greenstead, we saw only one bidder going into the meeting but alas they would not engage with us.”

Sole fought plans by the council to close 25 libraries across the county.

Of the 49 which would have remained, 19 would have been run by community groups.

However, following the protests the council promised no libraries would close for five years - although it said it would instead look to set up community-run libraries and invited expressions of interest.

The Sole spokesman added: “Plans to get rid of all the staff from these particular libraries, sell off the library buildings and have groups house and run these libraries voluntarily, is a closure plan by stealth.

“It is particularly galling the county council continues to go about this process in such a cloak and dagger style.

“Why the secrecy? Communities must at the very least have the right to know who is taking over their library.

“This is essential for transparency and democracy.”

A county council spokesman said the meetings were purely administrative.

They said: “These are not secret meetings.

“They are meetings to which community groups who have made an expression of interest were invited to talk through the details of the recently published community-run libraries information pack and ask any questions.

“They were administrative in nature and included nothing about the process which has not already been in the public domain.”

To find out more information about Essex’s libraries, visit