Libraries face uncertain future as council seeks cuts

PUBLISHED: 15:25 09 February 2018

Nailsea Library

Nailsea Library

Archant

A ‘disgraceful’ plan to close library buildings in Clevedon, Long Ashton and Nailsea is planned by North Somerset Council to cut costs.

Critics have slammed the proposal which they fear will prevent elderly people from accessing key services and lead to fewer children reading books.

The council plans to relocate the towns’ library services to smaller premises, but Long Ashton readers face having to use a mobile service in future.

Cllr James Tonkin, who sits on Nailsea town and North Somerset councils, said it makes no sense to reduce the library service when 3,000 homes are being planned.

He said: “I think it is a disgrace.

“It is looking to sell them and put it (the service) into a shop.

“We have an iconic building which is perfectly situated in the town and it now wants to put it away – it’s a nonsense.

“We are an ageing population and there are computers there people need to use.

“And we are trying to encourage our children to read. The amount of kids who come in with parents at a weekend is amazing and we can’t lose that.”

The relocation proposal is on page 237 of North Somerset’s budget and the town council said it was not made aware of the idea.

North Somerset’s proposals were ratified on Tuesday by its executive, but are subject to a full council vote later this month and consultation.

The move would save about £140,000 over the next two years.

Clevedon town councillor Graham Watkins said: “People are not using libraries in the same way they historically have.

“At the premises currently, there is a lot of wasted space.

“It (North Somerset) is obviously looking to save money and looking to have some means of giving access to libraries without staff being there.

“It doesn’t mean just because you are saving costs you can’t possibly even enhance the service.

“We must not downgrade the library service in Clevedon. We don’t want to go back to the days of mobile libraries running around. We have to retain a library service which I think is absolutely vital.”

North Somerset has talked of running a library, swimming pool and more at Nailsea’s Scotch Horn Leisure Centre.

But Cllr Tonkin ‘doesn’t believe it’s going to happen’ after North Somerset cancelled three meetings with him over the idea.

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