CAMPAIGNERS have accused a council boss of “putting a gun to people’s heads” over the future of libraries.

Save Our Libraries Essex has condemned County Hall’s revised libraries strategy, which will see volunteer groups given a small grant over three years to keep services running, as “closure by stealth”.

Groups, including those in Coggeshall and Holland-on-Sea, have withdrawn their offers to run libraries.

The campaign group has produced an information pack which it has sent to town and parish councils warning of the “impossible job” community groups would face.

In a statement SOLE said: “We see Susan Barker, cabinet member responsible for libraries, has said she’s ‘confused’ as to why community groups are withdrawing expressions of interest.

“Councillor Barker put a gun to people’s heads and demanded they run their local library or their local library would close.

“Now she’s put her gun away for at least five years and said no library will close in that time, it does seem astonishing councillor Barker finds this in any way confusing.

“The purpose of our information pack is to ensure every single parish or town council or community group thinking of volunteering to run a library, knows they no longer have to come forward as a last resort to save their library.

“Furthermore they should also be aware of what an impossible job they’d be taking on. We urge any group that has submitted an EOI to withdraw it.”

SOLE will stage a countywide day of action with events across Essex on September 28.

Essex County Council declined to comment saying it had “previously made our position on libraries clear.”