The future of Highbridge’s closure-threatened library was dramatically secured on Monday (April 4th) after a deal to keep it open was struck with Somerset County Council.
Councillors Peter Burridge-Clayton, John Woodman, Chris Williams and Janet Keen announced the surprise news during Monday’s town council meeting.
Under the terms of the deal, which has been negotiated by Highbridge councillor John Woodman, the county council will employ a single member of staff at the library and pick up payroll costs.
The county council will provide a one-off £5,000 ‘priming grant’ to set-up the community-run library, which will be operated by a team of volunteers.
The county council will also pick up the annual costs of the connection to SomerNET, a library management system; provide £578 towards the running costs of the system, and a further £337 will be given towards People’s Network costs.
Town councillors were told at Monday’s meeting that £4,000 of funding would be required from the Town Council to enable the ‘rescue’ to go ahead, which they unanimously agreed.
Councillor Peter Burridge-Clayton said opening hours are yet to be determined, as are the terms of the lease, and that insurance costs would also need to be examined by the group of volunteers.
From this autumn, the library will therefore be run by a group of almost 30 volunteers who came forward earlier this year to offer their help in running the library following a successful appeal by town councillor Chris Williams.
Cllr Williams told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “This is wonderful news. I honestly thought the library was on very thin ice, but this is fantastic news and I am very grateful for John and Peter’s help in securing its future.”
Cllr Janet Keen added: “This is the best news of the year so far. I just hope that all those people who expressed their concern about Highbridge Library being considered for closure will come forward and use it. The volunteers will need their support.”
Cllr John Woodman told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “We wanted to find a realistic option to save Highbridge Library and, with the £5,000 of funding I have secured, we have a viable way to save it. I am 100 per cent sure that it has now been saved.”
Mayor Michael Clarke also welcomed the news, saying: “It’s great news and a fantastic reward for all those who have put in so much effort to safeguard it.”
And Cllr Neville Jones added: “It’s a wonderful result. Thanks go to all those members who have secured this admirable and equitable solution. This is really good news for the ‘doers’, who don’t just stand back but put their ideas into action.”
The closure of Highbridge Library was being considered by the County Council as part of its wide-reaching financial cutbacks across the region. It was placed on a hit list of 20 which the County Council wanted to wind down as part of a £75million cost-cutting exercise.
Further volunteers to help run the library are being sought. Those who can offer help should contact the Town Clerk’s office on 01278 788088.