Protest is sparked as Somerset council hints at library changes

Burnham and Cheddar Library. Pictures: Google Maps

Burnham and Cheddar Library. Pictures: Google Maps - Credit: Google Maps

Somerset could be facing cuts to its libraries as the county council targets millions of pounds in savings.

The authority is looking at transferring the running of the services to community groups as it aims to save £12million in next year’s budget.

It follows an attempt by the council to withdraw funding from 11 libraries in 2011 – a proposal which was scrapped after a judicial review.

However, it insists it remains committed to a ‘thriving, dynamic’ library service in future.

A council spokesman said: “Over the past five years we have made more than £100million of savings and efficiencies.

“Our funding from Government continues to fall and all services are being asked to find efficiencies and savings.

“Our library service is much-valued and we have to put it on a sustainable financial footing for the long-term.

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“To do that we are developing a three-year plan so expected budget reductions can be managed in a way that minimises the impact.

“A thriving, dynamic library service is very much part of the future of Somerset County Council.

“We are looking at the use of the network and exploring what roles communities might be able to take in running libraries.

“We expect to have proposals for consultation by the end of the year and will encourage the public to come forward and give their views through that consultation.

“At this stage there are no proposals for any specific individual libraries.”

Members of the Labour Party’s North West Somerset branch gathered outside Burnham Library to protest at the potential changes.

More than 350 people have also signed an online petition in opposition to the proposals.

John Fones, the branch’s vice-chairman, said: “Volunteers try their hardest, but there is no substitute for professionals, professionally educated and trained to provide the service people seek when visiting a public library.

“A library service that is run by volunteers will soon find that its budget for new stock will be cut as well.”