A protest has been held outside Burnham-On-Sea library over potential cutbacks by Somerset County Council to local library services.
The local branch of the Labour Party held a demonstration outside Burnham Library on Saturday, as pictured here, to raise awareness about the forthcoming consultation on changes to the library service across Somerset.
As we reported here, the council was forced to shelve its plans to withdraw funding to 11 libraries in 2011 after a judicial review, but the authority is now considering whether to hand over the running of the service to local groups.
Council Leader David Fothergill said: “We have to find different models of operating libraries which may mean we won’t be operating them directly.”
He said the council has had £100m of its budget cut by the government over the past few years. “We haven’t put in any savings for this year for libraries – what we want to do is go out to consultation and find out the best way to provide our library services,” he said. “If money is being taken off us as a county council by central government we have to [be] reviewing the services we deliver.”
The proposals may also involve fewer libraries being run in the county by the local authority.
During Saturday’s protest outside Burnham Library, John Fones from North West Somerset Branch Labour Party said: “When we saw this article we wanted to do something about it immediately. It is important for people in Burnham and Highbridge to know that the Labour Party is concerned about local issues such as the threat to Library Funding.”
“Libraries and librarians have been part of our cultural landscape since the founding of the first public library in Peterborough, New Hampshire in 1833 and the Public Libraries Act 1850 in the UK.”
“On Saturday in Burnham, we met parents and children, retired people, working people and all said they were shocked at the very idea of County Council funding being stopped.”
“People come in to use all the things that libraries now offer – we spoke to one person who says he is unemployed and has no Internet at home – but he can always use the library to apply for jobs online.”
“Two children wanted to sign our petition and were very upset when they heard the library was threatened. I am sure the County Council has to keep strict control over its finances, but the notion of Conservative County councillors complaining about Conservative government cuts is just too ludicrous. Do they have no sense of irony at all?”
He added: “The Labour Party has been campaigning across the Wells constituency since the General Election and locally in Highbridge, Rooksbridge and Burnham. People are worried about the Health Service and Social care. People are worried about local transport. People are worried about their jobs, about local policing.”
“People are worried about schools – we know that the local secondary school has an inadequate OFSTED inspection report. Parents and children value the learning that takes place through the local library and yet we learn that funding may be cut. If funding is cut, then the service will not survive in its present form.”
“The Labour Party is not complacent about the library. The Labour Party are not just holding up our hands and complaining about central government cuts. The Labour Party is campaigning on this and will be lobbying hard to ensure this idea hits the rails now. There is no need for any consultation – there is no need to cut this funding.”
The campaigners are inviting residebnts sign a petition here to stop the possible cuts.