Published: June 7, 2011
Fresh fears raised over viability of threatened Highbridge Library

Fresh fears were raised by town councillors on Monday evening (June 6th) regarding whether Highbridge Library can be saved from closure.

Several councillors expressed concerns about the viability of the library during a full town council meeting.

"I am extremely concerned for the long-term sustainability of the library since some of the volunteers who previously offered to help us are no longer available," said Cllr Helen Groves.

She added: "I have had a long-term involvement with Highbridge Library and don't want it to close but I also do wonder why the Town Council should take on services like libraries when it's the County Council's role to run them. We are simply giving them an excuse to pass them on to us by giving financial help."

During a debate about whether the council should support the library financially, Cllr Ken Smout added: "We've faced losing post offices, libraries, the TIC and even The Princess over the past 18 months. As a council, we're trying to save key community facilities where we can."

Cllr Phil Harvey added: "We are an insidious position as more services like libraries are devolved to us from principal authorities. Public toilets and dog bins have already been passed on to us from the County Council. We are put at a disadvantage because while the County can claim revenue support grants, we cannot and this means there's a greater cost to bear on our community as householders foot the bill."

"We've pledged £4,000 to Highbridge Library this year but it could be £9,500 next year and, once other related costs such as cleaning are considered, I think the realistic sum will be nearer £12,000. I wonder whether we should do it," he said.

But Cllr Neville Jones responded that Burnham's Tourist Centre had proven that voluntary groups, such as BIARS (Burnham Information And Rescue Support), which runs the seafront centre, can work well and that this could be repeated at Highbridge Library.

Peter Burridge-Clayton added: "We saw a burning desire in place earlier this year to save the library, but it looks as though that may be dimming. Someone needs to grasp this and take it forward - it would be a great shame to see it go."

Town Clerk Eileen Shaw told the meeting she would check how many volunteers are still interested in helping and report back at the July council meeting.

Talking to afterwards, Highbridge district councillor Joe Leach added: "I am very concerned that several councillors who were very vocal about keeping the library open earlier in the year now appear to be backing away from too much involvement. I think we should be looking towards central government to fund Highbridge library, not just local councils."


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