THE ex-boss of book chain Waterstones has said a council must prioritise getting more people to use libraries.

But Tim Coates, a library campaigner, said failing to focus on reviving the service was just “prolonging the torture” of closing libraries.

Revised plans for the future of Essex’s libraries were given the green light last month.

Under the proposals, the council has promised no libraries will close in the next five years.

The original proposals would have seen 25 libraries closed and of the 49 staying open, 19 could have been run by groups.

READ MORE: Community groups in Essex withdraw offers to run libraries

However, it will look to set up community-run libraries, which will be given a grant of £18,000 split across three years.

Mr Coates said: “The really essential part of a library strategy in Essex - or anywhere else - is to reverse the decline in use.

“It is perfectly possible to do that by concentrating on the strengths that libraries have in the eyes of people who might use them.

“But if we don’t do that, we are just prolonging the torture of closing the service and wasting a lot of money by doing that.”

Mr Coates words come as opposition councillors have called the decision into County Hall’s place services and economic growth policy and scrutiny committee.

The committee will be left with three options - to uphold the decision, refer it back to the decision maker or ask full council to review it.

The call-in has been made by Labour’s Julie Young, the Lib Dem’s Mike Mackrory and Chris Pond, of Loughton Residents Association.

READ MORE: Decision on future of Essex's libraries called in for scrutiny

A spokesman for Essex County Council, said: “Local people are absolutely best placed to help us shape the future of the libraries service, allowing us to build on the existing strengths each library has and ensure they are modern, inviting spaces that are fit for how residents want to use them now and in the future.

“That’s why we announced plans to work with communities to transform our libraries service and invest an additional £3million into efforts to reverse the decline in usage.”