The future of closure-threatened Highbridge Library will be announced in October, Somerset County Council has announced this week.

Members of the ‘Save Highbridge Library’ campaign face a long wait for the final news on its fate.

Somerset County Council’s Scrutiny Committee heard at a meeting on Tuesday (July 10th) that 7,015 Somerset residents and organisations have taken part in a 19-week library service consultation this year.

The results of the library consultation will now be fully analysed over the summer with a detailed report published in September.

Recommendations on the future of Somerset’s library service are due to be published on 27th September with a final decision taken by Somerset County Council’s Cabinet on 17th October.

Depending on the Cabinet decision, where expressions of interest are received from individual communities, Community Library Partnership proposals may be developed and agreed between November 2018 and March 2019. Implementation of the library redesign programme is expected to start early next year.

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries at Somerset County Council, said: “I want to thank everyone who completed the survey or took time to write in; we’ve been given a huge wealth of views and information including many responses from primary school aged children setting out how much they love their library.”

“The high number of responses and the efforts that people all over the County have put into the process reinforces what we already knew. Library services are just as important to you as they are to us.”

“We are proud of our library services, but as a Council we also have to live within our means at a time of unprecedented pressure on all our budgets.”

“I stress that whatever the recommendations for Somerset’s library services will be going forward, communities will continue to have access to quality library services.”

Somerset County Council started its formal public consultation on 29th January, asking residents and organisations to consider proposals for each of Somerset’s 34 libraries.

In Mid-March the consultation was extended to provide communities with additional information and more time to give their responses.

The proposals set out that for 12 libraries, there will be no change to the delivery of library services. These libraries include Bridgwater, Burnham-On-Sea, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Langport, Minehead, Taunton, Wells, Williton, Wincanton and Yeovil.

For 15 libraries, community support may be required to keep library buildings open. These include Bishops Lydeard, Bruton, Castle Cary, Highbridge, Milborne Port, Nether Stowey, North Petherton, Porlock, Priorswood (Taunton), Somerton,South Petherton, Street, Sunningdale (Yeovil), Watchet and Wiveliscombe.

No decisions have been taken, and won’t be taken until the County Council’s Cabinet meets in October. Where the Cabinet decides that library buildings would only remain open with community support, communities will have an opportunity to submit an expression of interest to operate the library building in partnership with the County Council (a Community Library Partnership).

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