Somerset County Council has this week said Highbridge Library could close under new cost-cutting proposals unless local volunteers are found to keep it open.
Highbridge Library in Market Street, pictured, is among 15 of Somerset’s 34 libraries that will have to find local helpers to keep running.
A report considered by county councillors says the cuts are expected to deliver between £300,000 and £520,000 of annual savings.
The news comes as Somerset County Council begins a public consultation on the future of its library services, which will run from 29th January for 12 weeks, when local people will be able to have their say.
The council told Burnham-On-Sea.com that Highbridge Library has a catchment population of 6,786 people, but has just 288 active borrowers, and an annual footfall of 3,786 people.
For Highbridge Library, the council therefore proposes to “provide library services through either a partnership with the local community to maintain a library building in Highbridge; or by delivering outreach library services such as events, activities, small book collections and/or public computer terminals via alternative venues.”
In a report, the council says that Burnham-On-Sea Library, pictured right, has a catchment population of 37,078 people with 3,270 active borrowers, and an annual footfall of 67,745 people.
The council says: “Existing library services will continue to be provided at Burnham-On-Sea Library. We will continue to explore the potential to share space with other organisations and/or partners, in order to save money.”
A formal decision was taken by the county council on Thursday (January 18th) to consult on a set of proposals that seek to put the service on a sustainable footing for the long-term at a time when all Council budgets are under enormous pressure.
Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development, Cllr David Hall, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long-term, whilst still delivering a modern thriving library service across our County.”
“Library services will continue across Somerset whatever the response from this consultation, but our proposals highlight that keeping some libraries open may require community support.”
“Where we are unable to keep libraries open, we will deliver library services in other ways such as via alternative venues or mobile library services.”
“I would stress that no decision about the future delivery of library services in any community has been taken and no decision will be made until the results of this consultation have been fully analysed. Please take the opportunity to submit your views on the proposals from 29th January and offer your ideas or suggestions for any alternative proposals you may have.”
The proposals and the questionnaire will be available online from 29th January at www.somerset.gov.uk/librariesconsultation.
In 2011, the council was forced to shelve its plans to withdraw funding to 11 libraries across Somerset after a judicial review.