Libraries at risk of closure in cost-cutting plan

PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 January 2018

Cheddar and Highbridge libraries are at risk of closure. Picture: Google Maps

Cheddar and Highbridge libraries are at risk of closure. Picture: Google Maps

Archant

Somerset County Council has said two libraries could close under its new cost-cutting plans.

Highbridge Library, in Market Street, and Cheddar Library, in Union Street, are among 15 libraries threatened with closure this week unless volunteers come forward to help.

The council has released its library consultation report to investigate ways of saving money in the county across its 34 libraries.

The two libraries have had their annual footfall analysed and compared to neighbouring facilities to evaluate their effectiveness.

Highbridge Library has an annual footfall of 3,786 people, 94 per cent less than Burnham Library which is open 34 hours a week to Highbridge’s nine and a half – the council found for the library to continue, it needed to work with the community or offer remote services.

Cheddar Library is open 24 hours a week and has more than 1,300 active ‘borrowers’ and an annual footfall of more than 31,000 but the council has said it is at risk of becoming ‘socially isolated’ and ‘digitally excluded’.

The council is exploring two different options for Cheddar; to make no changes to its service or to reach out to the community for voluntary support – each decision dependent on the future of libraries in Wells and Shepton Mallet and whether they can secure community backing.

David Hall, the council’s cabinet member for resources and economic development, said: “These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long-term, while still delivering a modern library service across our county.

“Library services will continue across Somerset whatever the response from this consultation, but our proposals highlight 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 through alternative venues or mobile library services.

“I would stress no decision about the future delivery of library services has been taken and no decision will be made until the results of this consultation have been fully analysed.”

People will be invited to give their feedback on the plans in a questionnaire from January 29.

The proposals and the form will be available from www.somerset.gov.uk/librariesconsultation

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