In her recent letter, county councillor Sue Barker claims she wants to set the record straight on “inaccurate claims and assumptions” underpinning our claim Colchester will be left with just one library for every 95,000 people if her plans go ahead.

She claims the true figure is one library for every 32,000 people (still worse, by far, than other counties).

Yet Cllr Barker herself makes huge assumptions about Tier 3 libraries.

To be clear: our figures (calculated from her own data) do indeed assume all of Colchester’s Tier 3 and 4 libraries will be lost under the strategy, and for good reasons.

a) there is no reason to assume, as Cllr Barker does, that community groups will come forward for every Tier 3 library;

b) if groups do so, they will not be able to provide anything like the current fully funded, professionally staffed, public library service.

They will have no buildings, no computers, no stock, no guaranteed staffing, and no access to the online network that enables book loans across the country and connects all our libraries together.

They will not be proper public libraries as people know them and be constantly vulnerable.

At a recent session for groups considering taking over Tier 3 libraries, the council listed some of the risks involved, including increased costs due to turnover of volunteers, major fundraising pressures for buildings etc, variations in service between libraries, the daunting set up time, and many issues linked to IT provision.

There are significant barriers to creating and sustaining community run libraries and Essex County Council knows this.

Cllr Barker has a duty to be honest with people about the details of her proposals.

So-called “community run” libraries would be a pale imitation of what we have now in our already underfunded, scaled-back public libraries.

Lacking dedicated premises, robbed of existing stock, unable to provide computer services, disconnected from other libraries, reliant on the availability of volunteers for opening hours or to open at all, and at ongoing risk of complete closure, these “community run” services would be libraries in name only.

That’s the best-case scenario. There is every reason to believe that some or all Tier 3 libraries will be unable to find groups willing to run them at all.

This is what Cllr Barker is proposing for Tier 3 libraries, and the assumptions she is using for her figures.

With these realities exposed, people can judge for themselves whether Cllr Barker’s assumptions are well-founded, or whether as we have pointed out it is far more likely that Colchester will be left with just two libraries to serve more than 190,000 people.

Katy Vargas