HOPE has been given to Dorset’s threatened libraries – but the future is looking brighter for Lyme Regis than Charmouth.

In a dramatic U-turn, councillors asked by Dorset County Council to determine the future of 20 threatened libraries have called for them all to be safeguarded.

The councillors are members of the Policy Development Panel (PDP), who want to preserve all 34 libraries by cutting costs in other ways.

But county library bosses still want 10 community libraries to be abandoned – although this is an improvement on the initial 20.

Under this proposal, Lyme Regis and Beaminster libraries would be among those saved, but Charmouth and Burton Bradstock would be among those closed down and offered up to the community to run.

Four money-saving options will go before the council’s Community Overview Committee next Monday.

Members will then make a recommendation to Cabinet on July 6.

The full county council will make the final decision on July 21.

Representatives of the Save the Lyme Regis Library Campaign have welcomed the concessions but remain ‘cautiously optimistic’.

Group member Anita Williams said: “We are encouraged to see that it has been recognised that Lyme has a great need for a library service on the grounds of our geographic location, deprivation and demographic grounds.”

Ms Williams said they would continue to press their case by attending Monday’s meeting and lobbying until July’s full council meeting to make sure Lyme remains on the ‘saved’ list.

She added: “Whilst being encouraged at our own position, our thoughts are with those communities such as Charmouth that are still continuing to fight for the retention of their library.

“We’re not celebrating yet, but it does look like there is some light at the end of the tunnel and we are cautiously optimistic for the future of our library.”

The Friends of Charmouth Library have welcomed the PDP support.

Chairman Hazel Robinson said: “How can it be that Dorset Library Service, the very people who should want to keep open and improve all our libraries, are anxious to close them and have, in my opinion, weighted their report against the recommendations of the Policy Development Panel?”

Mrs Robinson said it is ‘highly unlikely’ that small communities like Charmouth can find sufficient funds and volunteers to run the libraries.

Supporters can help by being at County Hall in Dorchester before 10am on Monday and email councillors on the committee.

Debbie Ward, the council’s director of adult and community services, said: “The decreasing amount of resources means that the current level of service cannot be maintained.

“There are a number of significant factors to balance when determining a way forward for the library service, both in terms of the future provision of the library service and making the required level of savings.”

What the options are

• A – Retain 14 core libraries and offer the remaining 20 libraries to be run by local communities (supported by the county council).

• B – Retain 24 libraries, and offer the remaining 10 for local community ownership and management (supported by the county council). This option would involve a reduction in the bookfund and in frontline, management and support staff. Income options would be introduced through contributions for book reservations and reading groups would be invited to make donations to the service.

• C – Reduce opening hours across all 34 libraries by 10 per cent, cut the bookfund and reduce frontline, management and support staff. Charges would be introduced for book reservations, and reading groups would be invited to make donations to the service.

• D – Reduce the bookfund, review the approach to buying books, cut the frequency of book deliveries, and reduce management and support staff.