Published:
January 15, 2016
Council plans cuts to library opening hours in Burnham and Highbridge

Opening hours at Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge libraries could be cut under controversial proposals from Somerset County Council.

Under the plans - which are currently out for consultation until February - Burnham Library will see its opening hours reduced by four hours a week while Highbridge Library's hours will be reduced by 3.5.

Burnham's County Councillor, Peter Burridge-Clayton, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "As with any cuts in public services it is disappointing, but at the end of the day these proposals being made throughout the County will enable all libraries to stay open."

"It is important for library users to engage with this consultation and make sure their views are known. If there are specific times and days people have concerns about, it is important to comment so changes to the proposals can be made."

He added: "Burnham is one of the top five libraries in the County and is a wonderful facility, with the latest up-to-date technology, it is a great asset to the town, and will remain so in the future."

The proposals have come under criticism with one local library user, Michelle Jones, telling Burnham-On-Sea.com: "It's very sad to see proposed cutbacks to such an important service, even if it is just a few hours a week. Burnham library is used by many local people and the hours should be kept the same - it's all part of a gradual reduction of public services while our council tax bills keep going up."

Lib Dem town councillor Phil Harvey added: "Nobody wants to see our library hours cut - this is very regrettable and I do hope we retain a decent core service. The county council must understand that not everyone can get to the library in the daytime so a wide range of hours is needed."

The County Council said in a statement: "The way the way people use libraries is changing and we have a plan for the future of the service, which sets out how we will do everything we can to keep all libraries in Somerset open. This includes a change in library opening hours."

"With partners we are creating a number of hubs, which will reduce building running and maintenance costs, make financial savings and help to make services more sustainable and fit for future use. The hubs will be modern, flexible spaces that will bring several local services together, including libraries, in a single building. There is no one size fits all solution, so we will work with local partners to find solutions, which work for local communities."

"Cabinet considered and agreed the proposals on 9th December to proceed with an eight-week engagement exercise, which runs until 11th February 2016."

"We are seeking feedback from residents to help us understand more about how and when residents access public services, including libraries, and how they could meet residents' needs in the future. This will help us to provide an improved and more efficient customer experience."

"Library opening hours have not been comprehensively reviewed since 2011. In order to review them now we have taken a number of factors into account and come up with a set of proposals which aim to reflect local need and demand within the budget constraints that we face."

To have your say on the proposed changes, visit the council's website here.

THE PROPOSALS IN DETAIL FOR BURNHAM AND HIGHBRIDGE:

In Burnham, the council says the population of the library catchment area is 26,548. The average number of monthly active users between May 2014 and October 2014 was 3,283. There are higher numbers of retired people and those whose day to day activities are limited due to long-term health problems in the catchment area compared to Somerset as a whole, with 41% of registered library users aged over 60. Transactions fall off sharply after 5pm on a Friday (4% compared with 9% between 4pm and 5pm) and a reduction of four hours a week is proposed, as below:

. BURNHAM-ON-SEA LIBRARY PROPOSED OPENING HOURS CHANGES
Current Hours Proposal
Monday 9.30am - 5pm 10am - 5pm
Tuesday 9.30am - 5pm 10am - 5pm
Wednesday 9.30am - 1pm 10am - 1pm
Thursday 9.30am - 5pm 10am - 5pm
Friday 9.30am - 6pm 10am - 5pm
Saturday 9.30am - 1pm 10am - 1pm

In Highbridge, the council says the population of the library catchment area is 22,796. The average number of monthly active users between May 2014 and October 2014 was 360. There are high levels of retired people with low to moderate incomes and some age related health problems in the catchment. To give a balance one weekday morning and one weekday afternoon is proposed plus Saturday mornings. A reduction in opening hours of three and a half hours per week is proposed, as below:

. HIGHBRIDGE LIBRARY PROPOSED OPENING HOURS CHANGES
Current Hours Proposal
Monday  
Tuesday 2pm - 5pm 2pm - 4.30pm
Wednesday  
Thursday 9.30am-1pm & 2-5pm 9.30am-1pm
Friday  
Saturday 9.30am - 1pm 9.30am - 1pm

What's your view?
Are the proposed changes justified? Contact Burnham-On-Sea.com and let us know your thoughts about the changes in Burnham and Highbridge

 


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