SOMERSET County Council has made an extra £30,000 available to communities interested in taking over under-threat libraries.

Councillor Christine Lawrence, cabinet member for community services, is stumping up the cash following her decision to take forward savings proposals agreed by the council’s Cabinet in February to make a 25% cut in the library service budget.

The £30,000 pot can be used to provide one-off grants of up to £5,000 to communities that commit themselves to running or supporting libraries that may no longer be funded by the council, subject to a decision later this month.

Six of Somerset’s 34 libraries could be offered to their communities to run in October, with a further five libraries offered next April.

The other 23 libraries will face having their opening hours slashed by 20% from October 1.

The additional £30,000 has come from savings identified after consideration of proposals put forward by the Friends of Glastonbury/Somerset Libraries.

Cllr Lawrence said: “There have been positive discussions with many communities and we hope that the extra funding will help turn discussions into practical solutions.

"As with all services, the decision to reduce budgets for libraries has been very tough but is necessary because of the council’s financial position.

"We need to provide the best service we can within the resources we have.”

The council says the new opening hours will vary for each library and were devised based on responses to questionnaires completed by library users, analysis of visits and computer usage, and the experience and knowledge of library staff.