January 5, 2011
'pathetic excuses' for Highbridge library closure attacked
A senior Highbridge councillor has this week attacked Somerset
County Council for considering closing the town's library, claiming
it is breaking government guidance and making up 'pathetic excuses'.
Cllr Joe Leach, pictured with MP Tessa Munt outside the threatened
library in Market Street, told Burnham-On-Sea.com that a review
of senior management positions at both the county and district
councils should be taking place before any cuts to vital libraries.
He claims that the county council is ignoring the advice of the
government's Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who called for
closures of libraries to be a last resort after every other alternative
has been exhausted.
Leach, who is leader of the Liberal Democrats in Sedgemoor, told
Burnham-On-Sea.com: "In a speech to the House Of Commons
on December 13th, Eric Pickles said 'Before we see libraries cut,
I want to see councils sharing chief executives, their legal department,
their accounts department, their payroll, their IT, their planning,
their education functions. And when they have done all that, if
they feel they have to close libraries, they should talk to me
again' which indicates that even should the worst happen, they
should speak to the Local Government Secretary before issuing
the closure orders."
Cllr Leach added: "I am absolutely furious at the county
council's pathetic excuses for closure of library services - something
that is vital and necessary to so many people across Highbridge
and the county."
"I have been calling for a top level management review for
months, yet it has fallen on deaf ears. Now, it is revealed that
their own Secretary of State said the same the day before the
cuts were announced and still the Cabinet at County Hall did nothing
to try and prevent these closures."
call on Cllr Maddock to re-think this decision and save our libraries.
Once it's gone, we won't get it back, and Highbridge will never
forgive him when we know there are alternatives. I also ask him
if he has even spoken or contacted Mr Pickles as was requested,
should all options fail. I doubt it very much."
Sedgemoor Lib Dems have also claimed that the Annual Grants Settlement
from Central Government was much better than expected for Somerset
County Council, meaning they actually have more money than previously
this extra money, I question why the County Council are still
considering the closure of libraries altogether. It has been poorly
thought through, poorly consulted on, and poorly executed."
And MP Tessa Munt recently told Burnham-On-Sea.com outside Highbridge
Library: "The facilities here are used by many different
people, not just book readers, and it would be awful - and unnecessary
- to see them close."
But Cllr Christine Lawrence, Somerset County Council's Cabinet
Member for Community, told Burnham-On-Sea.com during this week's
county council consultation in Burnham: "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 county council has previously claimed that Highbridge Library
is among the county's worst performing libraries by visitor numbers,
making it uneconomic to run.
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. Burnham-On-Sea.com
readers can have their say about the plans by filling in the feedback
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