December 15, 2010
Council names Highbridge Library on funding hit list
County Council has confirmed this week that it is likely to withdraw
all funding from Highbridge Library and wants the community to
run it instead.
The council announced on Wednesday (December 15th) that Highbridge
Library in Market Street is on a hit list of 20 libraries across
Somerset which it wants the community to run without any authority
The proposed funding withdrawal is part of the council's £75million
cost cutting exercise across all areas of services. The proposals
will deliver a 25% saving on the current library budget of £5.4
At the same time as Wednesday's announcement, the council said
funding for Burnham-On-Sea Library is safe - however it added
that there is potential for co-locating other public services
in the library.
Members of the public will be invited to have their say about
the proposals during a consultation event at Burnham's Princess
Theatre in Princess Street on Tuesday January 4th from 11am to
Christine Lawrence, who is responsible for community services,
said in a statement: "These proposals would create a library
service that is fit to face the future, making use of new technology
and with the potential to work closely with local communities."
"These are extremely difficult financial times and, unfortunately,
tough decisions have been made in all areas of council business,
from roads to recycling and including libraries."
Town councillor Cllr Janet Keen recently said the library's opening
hours have not helped its visitor numbers. "The decreased
hours are having a spiral effect of reducing the usage, thus inadvertently
providing the perfect excuse for closure."
Cllr Chris Williams added: "The County Council needs to
carefully consider the socio-economic implications of considering
its closure. Highbridge really needs a library - it can't close."
The County Council has previously said that Highbridge Library
is among the worst performing libraries in Somerset by visitor
numbers, making it difficult to sustain. A final decision on its
future will be taken in February 2011.
Which 20 libraries are affected?
Under the proposals, the following Somerset libraries will
not be funded: Highbridge, Bishops Lydeard, Bruton, Castle
Cary, Cheddar, Dulverton, Glastonbury, Ilminster, Martock, Milborne
Port, Nether Stowey, North Petherton, Porlock, Priorswood, Shepton
Mallet, Somerton, South Petherton, Sunningdale, Watchet and Wiveliscombe.
How many staff would be affected by the proposals?
The number of staff who may be affected will not be known until
the consultation process is complete and the decisions made in
February 2011. Discussions are taking place with people in communities
where the County Council is due to withdraw funding for the library.
Such discussions may result in libraries being supported by local
communities and this may result in community funding for some
What sort of support and advice would the County Council give
to community groups?
The County Council do not know exactly at this stage, and it will
depend to a large degree on what sort of help communities say
they want. Under both options for community involvement the Library
Service would offer advice and coordination and may be able to
support some IT costs.
How does self-service work? Has it been used elsewhere?
Borrowers would be able record the loan and return of items using
the self-service units which will be installed in at least 10
of the 14 retained libraries. Staff, or possibly volunteers, would
also be available in those libraries to help borrowers. About
half of library authorities, including Dorset for example, and
many more are likely to offer this in the next few years.
What consultation has taken place about changes to the Library
The proposals and survey build on consultation work that has already
taken place as part of the Library Review. In September and October
ten focus groups were held with service users and interested community
groups such as parish councils. A question has also been included
in the current edition of Your Somerset which was distributed
in November, and a question about the Library Service was included
in an on-street survey of 1,000 people carried out at the end
of October/Early November.