Campaign group launches to halt closure plan
new campaign group has been launched this week in a bid to save
Highbridge Library from possible closure.
20 library staff, users and supporters attended a protest meeting
at Highbridge Social Club last night (Thursday) where the new group
was formally started.
Lib Dems and members of the North West Somerset Branch of the Labour
Party and Bridgwater and District Trades Union Council led the meeting
but they emphasized that "politics would be set aside"
to jointly oppose Somerset County Council plans threatening Highbridge
first reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com, Somerset
County Council says Highbridge Library could close under its
cost-cutting proposals unless local volunteers are found to keep
it open. The council says the cutbacks are expected to deliver between
£300,000 and £520,000 of annual savings across Somerset.
Library user Jo Osmond received loud applause at Thursday's meeting
when she spoke out passionately against the plans.
can't lose our library - this really is so important. We must stick
together on this," she said.
Highbridge Library user, Debbie Richardson, added: "I am one
of the 288 regular users of the library and I make a deliberate
point in using it - it's a wonderful facility." She went on
to suggest that more should be done to encourage children into libraries,
particularly during holiday periods.
Gordon from Watchfield, on the outskirts of Highbridge, added: "It's
important to remember that the library serves the surrounding 'fringe'
Phil Harvey told the meeting: "The savings to County in closing
Highbridge Library would be minimal - the staff costs are £8,000,
the premises costs are £8,000 and the overall net figure is
about £8,300. It could be in the realms of qualifying for
Fones added: "Libraries are places where people can find sanctuary,
access to resources like the internet, information and books. While
library usage is low in Somerset, the opening hours restrict access
and we need to be piling resources into Highbridge."
present voted unanimously to set up a campaign group, called Save
Higbridge Library, and to engage with all civic persons, including
MPs, councillors, Somerset County Council at meetings. The group
will meet weekly in the town and will proceed with a high-profile
publicity campaign aimed at saving the library from closure.
Chapple, Secretary of Bridgwater Trades Union Council, who chaired
the meeting, said: "The local campaign group will maximise
the pressure on Somerset County Council to ensure Highbridge Library
remains open as a professional and directly staffed facility."
adds: "It is vital that this campaign is as broadly-based as
possible. We want everyone in Highbridge who cares about their library
service, regardless of political affiliation, to take part."
resident Helen Groves added during Thursday's meeting: "Highbridge
is a special case. 64% of households in Highbridge have no permanent
internet access which is available at the library. 85% of Highbridge's
population are either children, working age, or semi-retired so
cannot access library during limited opening hours."
County Council under-invests in Highbridge, several schools have
in 'Special Measures' and early reading has a huge impact on life
chances. Highbridge is the third most deprived ward in Somerset
and the 20th in the whole UK, so having a library is vital. Furthermore,
many Highbridge residents are on low incomes, and the cost of buying
books (about £7-9 per book) is often prohibitive."
County Council says that Highbridge Library has a catchment population
of 6,786 people, but it has just 288 active borrowers, and an annual
footfall of 3,786 people.
Tony Curzons queried during the meeting whether the restrictive
opening hours at Highbridge Library could be widened to help it.
"If the hours were changed to suit when the population could
use it, such as evenings and Saturdays, would that improve the usage?"
County Council's proposals and questionnaire are available online
during the consultation until April 22nd at www.somerset.gov.uk/librariesconsultation.