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Shock at town library closure threat

15:30 05 April 2014

Archant

Budleigh Salterton Library could be at risk of closure unless volunteers from the community come forward to take it over.

That’s the message from Devon County Council, which says it wants to make changes to its libraries to modernise them and save money.

Budleigh Salterton Library is one of 28 in the county for which the council will invite community ideas about how they could be sustained, pending the outcome of its cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The council says it has no single model in mind, but suggests that a proposed model in Topsham, where charity the Estuary League of Friends is set to take over the library, is the kind of thing that could be done.

However, if no suitable community involvement could be found in Budleigh, there is a risk the library could close.

A county council spokesman said: “Subject to next week’s council meeting, communities will now be asked to take over the running of the services, with some level of support from the council, otherwise they risk it ending.

“The council, however, does not intend for any libraries to close and is confident that communities, charities and any interested group, will get behind the proposals to keep the local services running.”

County councillor for Budleigh, Christine Channon said she was confident that increased community involvement would be found, citing the strong levels of volunteer help already at the library and suggesting it could actually be a chance to improve the service.

She said: “There was a cutback in the hours three years ago, but on Saturday now there is someone there from the council but the others are volunteers.

“This is an area where people are extremely good at volunteering. If there is an opportunity to expand what’s going on in the library this is an opportunity we can grasp.”

However, town deputy mayor Caz Sismore-Hunt said: “I think it’s appalling. Perhaps they would like to ask all the charities, including the Poppy Appeal, and anyone who relies on volunteers if they get an abundance of volunteers.

“We can’t get any volunteers, so where are these volunteers coming from to run the library?

“I am really cross with the county council. It’s just another service they are cutting back on.”

Age Concern Budleigh Salterton’s Sian Bannister said: “Our clients say the library is an essential part of this community. It’s a fantastic place for information and meeting people for them.”

The council says the move is not just due to its need, following Government funding cuts, to save £110million by 2017, but also to reflect changes in library usage.

Assuming the council’s cabinet rubber-stamps the move, the plans will go out for consultation for the next three months, before firm proposals are announced in the autumn.

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