THE THREAT of closure still hangs over Libraries in Dorset after the service’s future was discussed by councillors.

After the meeting of Dorset County Council’s community overview committee, library campaigners claimed that ‘democracy has not been served’ as members voted down a proposal to support the retention all 34 of the county’s libraries.

The committee was presented with a report outlining four options for the future of the Dorset library service as it seeks to save £724,000.

They were: &bull: Option A, the council’s original proposal to withdraw funding from 20 of the council’s 34 libraries and offer communities the chance to keep them running &bull: Option B, (a revised option based on the original) 10 libraries to lose funding and the balance of savings made up through less books and staff.

&bull: Option C, to retain all 34 libraries and find savings through other means such as reducing opening hours by 10 per cent, cutting book funds and staff.

&bull: Option D, retention all of the libraries and finding funds through similar cuts to books and staff as well as reviewing the way books are bought and distributed.

Director of adult and community services Debbie Ward told the committee that Option B was the preferred route of council officers following a consultation process into the future of the library service.

While ten of the previously threatened libraries would be spared, it would still leave Burton Bradstock, Charminster, Chicker-ell, Colehill, Corfe Castle, Portland Underhill, Puddletown, Stalbridge, West Moors and Wool libraries all facing the prospect of losing council funding.

Tim Lee, spokesman for Ad Lib (the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries), said that if Option B went ahead it would be likely to result in the closure of at least seven of those libraries, with communities unable to provide the resources to take them on.

He said: “Under Option B it is almost certain that seven libraries will be forced to close forever and, depending on how negotiations progress, that could increase.”

Coun David Crowhurst spoke as chairman of the policy development panel, a group of councillors that had been looking at the future of the libraries, and said they supported Option D.

Their view was supported by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for equality, diversity and social cohesion Kate Wheller, who raised concerns for the future of Portland Underhill library.

She said: “If you are serious about saving money and want to go on offering a proper service you should be looking at making efficiency savings across the board, not swingeing cuts to some libraries.

“In year’s time you will have the same problems you have now.”

Coun David C Fox proposed option D but the vote was lost.

Members instead agreed to go forward with the officer recommendations that all four options be presented to the council’s cabinet, with option B the preferred choice.

The cabinet will consider the options on July 6 and make a recommendation ahead of a final decision at full council on July 21.