Watchet follows Somerton in getting library building

We reported last month that Somerton Town Council (STC) had secured the future of their library building. The building is to be transferred from Somerset County Council (SCC) to STC at no cost. That at least keeps a building in the centre of town open for the community.

Now we hear that a similar deal has been secured at the other side of the county for the library building at  Watchet. Here the freehold of the library building, a fine red brick building which was previously the town’s lifeboat station, is actually owned by West Somerset Council, not SCC. Before Christmas there was a fair bit of angst and agitation over the lack of willingness of West Somerset Council to hand the building over.

Wathcte Town Council and the community had prepared a plan to take over the running of the library to avoid SCC closing it down and replacing it with a mobile library service. This is not a small undertaking for a local community, requiring significant resources in both time and money. And the plan depended on Watchet Town Coucil securing the freehold of the library building.

Where SCC were trying to offload assets to help local communities such as Somerton cope, West Somerrset appeared more intent on getting a revenue stream. Instead they were looking for a full repairing lease to be given to Watchet Town Council.

With the way District Councils have been left short of funds by central government, it is hard not to have some sympathy. It is just a matter of choosing the right place and the right time.

When the community is being asked to step in and pay to run a service that they already pay council tax for others to provide, this was never going to be either the right time or the right place.

Today West Somerset Council have confirmed that they will, after all, transfer the freehold to Watchet Town Council. It is only a pity that the process has been handled grudgingly and with some ill will. Cllr Martin Dewdney, Cabinet Member for Resources and Central Support at West Somerset bruched over the past to suggest “We are pleased that through this transfer, WSC can support SCC and WTC in securing the long term future of a much valued community service.”

At least Watchet residents can look forward to a New Year with, if not a new, then a revived library

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