Less book keeping in Somerset

Following the review of the Somerset County Council Library service that ended back in July, SCC have now published their recommendations. It will result in the end of SCC funded libraries in 15 communities. That is not necessarily the same as closing the library, at least not yet. In the short term the 15 libraries that will be affected will be invited to put forward proposals to enable them to run as so called ”Cmmunity Partnership Libraries”, with staffing and service all provided by local volunteers. The review also recommends that an annual financial contribution of between £5,000 and £15,000 be provided to Community Library Partnerships based in Castle Cary, Somerton, Street, Porlock, Watchet, Wiveliscombe, Priorswood and Nether Stowey.

It is not immediately clear why the other libraries facing changes in Bishops Lydeard, Bruton, Highbridge, Milborne Port, North Petherton, South Petherton and Sunningdale (Yeovil) will not receive any financial support from SCC going forwards.

Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member with responsibility for libraries was not surprised that “Somerton Library.”

And in fairness they actually have. Seven of the libraries earmarked for potential change are now recommended to remain Somerset County Council operated libraries: these are at Cheddar, Crewkerne, Dulverton, Ilminster, Martock, Shepton Mallet and Wellington.

For those libraries marked for change though, they now have until midday on 15th November to submit a Community Library Partnership (CLP) Expression of Interest. But if they do not, or if SCC deem the plans submitted to be not viable, then alternative library services would be implemented (such as “outreach services” or mobile van library stops) and library buildings could start to close from early 2019.

In the meantime we should stress these are only recommendations. They will now go to Scrutiny Committee for Policy and Place on 24th October. The SCC Cabinet will then make a final decision, rather inappropriately on 5th November. If approved, implementation of the changes would start from January 2019.

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