DORSET County Council’s public consultation on library closures is all ‘smoke and mirrors’, campaigners have claimed.

It is after a senior councillor failed to show up to a meeting with Lyme Regis campaigners to discuss how a more cost effective library service could be provided in the town.

The council is considering withdrawing funding from 20 of its 34 libraries with Lyme and Charmouth both under threat.

Members of the Save the Lyme Regis Library campaign had arranged a meeting at County Hall with senior council officers, West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and Lyme county councillor Geoff Brierley.

The county council’s head of cultural services Paul Leivers and library service manager Tracy Long both attended, but Coun Hilary Cox, cabinet member for community services, did not attend as expected.

Campaigner Anita Williams said: “I am encouraged that officers from DCC have agreed to enter into discussions with Lyme Regis Town Council and the Lyme Regis Development Trust about how a more cost effective library service could be provided in Lyme.

“Unfortunately, while Coun Hilary Cox, the portfolio holder for community services had told our MP Oliver Letwin that she would meet with local communities, she failed to attend the meeting with no explanation being given.

“Unfortunately the reality is that the officers only make recommendations to council and unless the councillors want to see changes we will be stuck with the existing proposal to remove funding.”

A county council spokesman said: “The meeting had not been scheduled in her diary by the people who organised it, so she apologises for not knowing when and where it was taking place. Mrs Cox would have liked to attend the meeting.

“She is very keen that the innovative approach from Lyme Regis is supported as provision of a library service is obviously very popular with the residents.”

Residents are being encouraged to complete consultation questionnaires available at the library of online at the website www.dorsetfor They outline two main proposals – withdrawing funding from 20 libraries and encouraging communities to take over their ownership, or option two that would save all 34 libraries by spreading cuts across the library network.

Ms Williams is encouraging people to support option two and state that travelling to Bridport is unreasonable.

She said: “There is a lot of smoke and mirrors and while DCC is very keen to tell us that it is fully consulting, it confirmed at the seminar meeting in March that it was not prepared to consult on the initial proposal to withdraw funding from the 14 libraries.”

Campaigners say they may look for community support to do ‘housekeeping’ jobs at the library.

Coun Lorna Jenkin, who represents Lyme Regis Town Council, said: “This would save around £3,000 next year, 10 per cent of the annual Lyme Regis budget.”