Published: January 5, 2011
Angry residents urge council: 'Don't shut Highbridge library'

Dozens of residents attended a special public consultation event in Burnham-On-Sea on Tuesday (January 4th) to air their views about controversial council plans to withdraw funding for Highbridge Library.

The County Council's public consultation roadshow was held in Burnham's Princess Theatre, where residents heard about the council's proposals to slash funding for Highbridge library and seek volunteers to run it. reported last month that the library is on a hit list of 20 across Somerset which the council wants to wind down as part of its ongoing £75million cost-cutting exercise.

Many residents like Ken Oasgood, who is pictured above with Somerset's Senior Libraries Manager Phil Nicholls at Tuesday's event, are angry about the plans.

He told "It's appalling that the council is considering closing Highbridge Library. Libraries are vital for our community and I feel very sad for the staff who will be losing their jobs. I'm also very cynical about these public consultation events, given that a lot of the decisions seem to have already been taken about the library's future."

Another resident, Mike Long, told at Tuesday's event: "Libraries are 'poor man's universities' and provide many services, including PCs and Internet access, to help people develop themselves. To lose Highbridge library would be a huge loss for this community."

Town councillor Chris Williams, who also attended the event, said: "I don't think these proposals have been fully thought through. Soon, we'll be seeing public transport links cut which means some residents won't be able to travel to libraries outside their area. The closure of Highbridge and other libraries would have a huge impact on many people."

Cllr Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council's Cabinet Member for Community, pictured right, said during Tuesday's event: "These are extremely difficult financial times and, unfortunately, tough decisions have got to be made. Changes are needed and these are sadly likely to affect Highbridge."

The council has previously said that Highbridge Library is among the county's worst performing libraries by visitor numbers, making it uneconomic.

The council's consultation period closes on 14th January and the feedback will be reported to the 2nd February meeting of the County Council's Cabinet, which is due to decide whether the proposals should be agreed by the Full Council on 16th February. Have your say by filling in the feedback form here.

Meanwhile, Highbridge Library will be holding an open day from 10am-12pm this Saturday (8th January) to raise public awareness of Somerset County Council's proposal to close 20 libraries across Somerset and to allow residents of Highbridge to take part in the Libraries Consultation Questionnaire. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits available and a storyteller will be visiting for a special storytime for children (age 3-8) from 10.30am-11am featuring some favourite fairy tales.


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