Library faces closure with no-one willing to run it
PUBLISHED: 06:25 17 November 2018
People living in Highbridge could lose their community’s library as early as next month.
Burnham and Highbridge Town Council members voted against submitting an expression of interest to keep the facility open in Market Street – after it was revealed no volunteers, schools or neighbouring villages would be willing to help run the service.
The decision comes after Somerset County Council (SCC) announced a significant cut in funding to libraries last month – which earmarked the service in Highbridge as one of 15 under threat.
The town’s authority held a meeting on Monday to discuss the future of the library – which would have only stayed open if resident groups expressed an interest in running the service through a Community Library Partnerships (CLPs) scheme in conjunction with County Hall.
If no interest is put forward, SCC has promised communities a mobile or outreach service to replace under-threat libraries across the county.
Eight councillors to four voted in favour of Highbridge just having an outreach service.
Cllr Phil Harvey said at the meeting there would be two groups affected by the closure – those who cannot afford to travel to Burnham and people who use the library’s computers and resources.
He said: “As a council we could either reduce the library’s opening hours to 10 a week, which would bring the cost down to £15,000 a year to run – or it could be added onto council tax bills to keep the £20,000 service open.”
Cllr Peter Clayton responded and said: “Even in the worse-case scenario – Highbridge will still have a library (outreach) service. So, what is the point of spending money on an under-used service in the town?”
Cllr Janet Keen echoed these concerns and said: “While it would be nice to say we have a library, people living in Highbridge have not actively shown they want to make use of the service. It is a sorry state of affairs – but is it the way it is.”