Dorset County Council has come under fire after an investigation into the decision to relocate Dorchester library.

Auditors KPMG launched an investigation earlier in the year after receiving formal complaints over West Dorset District Council’s decision to relocate its offices to the Charles Street development as well as Dorset County Council’s decision to move the library to the same block in the development.

The investigation into the district council is ongoing but KPMG rebuked the county council over the move.

The auditors deemed that the authority failed to examine alternative sites that could offer better value for money and for not carrying out a proper assessment of the needs of the library service across Dorset before committing £5million for a new building in Dorchester.

County, district and town councillor for Dorchester Trevor Jones was one of the residents who made formal objections. He said: “Both findings have been accepted by the county council who have promised to make improvements from their asset management systems and procedures. It is not much comfort to those who have been so angry about what has been done but at least it lessens the chance of it ever happening again in the county council.

“KPMG’s report on the district council has not yet been received, but when it is I can only hope that any criticisms or recommendations are accepted by them and responded to positively as they have been by the county.” Library campaigner Mike Chaney, chairman of the Friends of Puddletown Library and a member of the Ad Lib (Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries) group, said: “It is just typical bulldozing through of a pet project.

“It is costing the whole of Dorset a lot of money and, quite frankly, you could well argue that we have lost nine libraries to buy one. It’s unnecessary and thinking big without taking more time to think about the consequences.”

In the conclusion to the report by KMPG it stated that, while concerns had been raised with the council, there was no basis to exercise its formal audit powers.

It adds: ‘The council should ensure that significant decisions (such as this capital investment) are demonstrably made in light of a full range of options and alternatives and the council’s agreed service or corporate strategies’.

county responds to criticism

In its formal response to the report findings, Dorset County Council stated: “The project for the Dorchester Library and Adult Learning Centre was unusual, in that it came forward in response to a proposal put to the County Council, rather than to address imperative service needs.

“It also required a decision at a time that did not fit with the county council’s normal schedule for considering the emerging priorities for new capital spending.

“However, the proposal had been in development for a long time, so there was no reason why alternative options could not be investigated at an earlier stage.”

The response added: “It is acknowledged that a fuller discussion of potential alternative options should have been included in the reports.”