'Ghost' village warning to council chiefs

PUBLISHED: 13:30 20 January 2011

Archant

A SOMERSET community will turn into a 'ghost village' if its library is shut, council bosses have been warned.

The stark caution came from Cheddar residents who voiced their concerns over county council plans to withdraw funding from the Union Street service along with 19 others.

Around 20 members of the public, including representatives of the newly-formed Friends of Cheddar Library (FCL) which has been set-up to fight the proposals, attended an extraordinary parish council meeting on January 12.

They put forward their case to county council officials and urged parish councillors to fight the plans ‘tooth and nail’.

Kay Allen, head of heritage and libraries at the county council, said there were already cash problems with the library service in the 2009/10 financial year, and the service was reviewed last summer.

The proposals, which are undergoing public consultation, are to form 14 ‘hub’ libraries, which are the busiest according to council statistics.

Funding will be withdrawn from the other libraries and communities will be asked to run them, or they face closing down.

Residents spoke passionately at the meeting, citing literacy and education, additional expenses, lack of library services nearby and a loss of a ‘social service’ as reasons for condemning the proposals.

Keith Herring, of FCL, said: “I live in a village with three premises closed within 50 yards of the market square – if the library closes god help us, it will be like a ghost village.”

Bruce Rance, FCL chairman, said Cheddar Library was the third cheapest to run in terms of cost per head, and the village had an ageing population, which relied on the range of services.

However Dawn Hill, parish and county councillor, warned the meeting that SCC will have to cut services – and if the libraries remained open other services such as adult social care may face harsher cuts.

Cheddar Parish Council resolved that it would ‘use all avenues to maintain a library service’ in the village – but did not go as far as members of FCL wanted them to in refusing to consider funding the library itself.

The council asked if four members of FCL would join the authority to thrash out an action plan, and the working party met this week.

Members will present their action plan to Cheddar Parish Council at its full meeting on Tuesday.

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