Essex library service did not consult members of the public about its plans to close libraries; it consulted them about “plans for a library service that’s modern, focused and fit for the way we live now and in the future”. Posters bearing the latter phrase appeared in public libraries across the county.

It seems to me that this Orwellian misuse of language was a cynical attempt to discourage the expression of opposition to the closures. There would almost certainly have been a smaller response to a poster that asked for views on making the library service “modern”, “focused” and “fit” than to one that asked for views on the closure of libraries.

Essex County Council justifies the proposed closures on the grounds that there has been a decline in the number of books being borrowed. This decline may not be unconnected to the fact that the Essex library service has been run down over the past fifteen years or so. The closure of libraries will result in even fewer people borrowing books.

Harlow town centre library has reduced its stock, and new books are sold off after a couple of years to a company that resells them at a profit. Books by Nobel Prize-winning scientists and novelists have been jettisoned and there is a shortage of books on basic numeracy.

If people who become unemployed wish to apply for benefits, they must do so online, and a condition of receiving benefit is that they apply for jobs online. One of the roles of the public libraries of Essex is to provide internet access for unemployed people unable to afford it.

If the libraries at The Stow, Bush Fair, Staple Tye, and other places in Essex are shut down, then not only will the jobless people served by those libraries find it difficult to satisfy the conditions for receiving their benefit, but the remaining libraries will find it difficult to cope with the increased demand for their IT services.

Essex County Council ought to stand up for the people of the county, protect our library service from further cuts, and demand that the Government proves its claim that austerity is over by reversing the massive cuts in funding inflicted upon county councils in the past ten years.

John Wake,

Name and address supplied