Concerns have been raised this week over a Town Council proposal to earmark £15,000 of funding into Highbridge Library to save it from closure.
During a Burnham and Highbridge Town Council meeting on Monday evening (July 2nd), councillors discussed proposals to fund the library if Somerset County Council concludes that it should close following its recent consultation.
Town councillor Andy Brewer said other parish councils should be consulted to see if they can provide funds to keep the library open.
“I agree that we need to keep a library service in Highbridge but I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of agreeing to commit £15,000 to run it,” he said at Monday’s meeting.
Tatiana Cant, Town Clerk for the Town Council, added that the council has not yet committed any funds to save the library and that discussions are ongoing with various parties.
However, John Fones from the Save Highbridge Library campaign group said while he welcomes the council’s proposals, he feels that they are “too early”.
He said: “We are very pleased the Town Council has joined our campaign to help save the library. Nevertheless we do feel very concerned that it is too early for the Town Council to be putting up funding when we haven’t had a decision from the County Council yet.”
“We feel Somerset County Council is going to be let off the hook by these proposals from the Town Council.”
Cllr Peter Clayton – who is the County Councillor for Burnham North – said that the County Council does not have the funds to keep the library going. “I don’t think it is too early, you either get support for the library or it will close,” he said.
But another member of the campaign group, Sheila Forrester, told the meeting that Mr Fones’ opinions do not represent everyone on the group. “I say thank you to the Town Council for its very welcome proposal. As a group we want to save the library and I have three helpers to work with the council on this.”
Cllr Janet Keen described Highbridge Library as a “jewel in Highbridge’s crown” and added that the council had previously taken a “leap of faith” in saving The Princess Theatre in Burnham from closing – and it is now “thriving,” demonstrating what could be done with the library.
Cllr John Parkes added that: “Given that Highbridge library only opens for nine and a half hours a week, it’s small wonder that it has low useage numbers. But there’s a real need for it here. It could also be part of a wider use, such as an outreach centre or post office.”
Councillors agreed to discuss the proposals in more detail at their next meeting, in September, after speaking to the parish councils about funding.