CAMPAIGNERS were left ‘bitterly disappointed’ after their bid to save nine libraries was foiled by a single vote.

After months of debates and protests on the future of Dorset’s libraries, the final decision came down to the final vote at a meeting of Dorset County Council.

Supporters of the Ad Lib (Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries) were on the steps of County Hall to make their views heard ahead of the meeting in a packed council chamber.

Councillors were asked to vote on two proposals for the future of Dorset’s library service in a bid to save £800,000.

The first proposal, known as Option B, involved withdrawing core funding to nine of the county’s 34 libraries while the second, Option D, proposed making cuts across the service to achieve the saving and retain all of the libraries.

The nine libraries faced with the loss of funding are at Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Chickerell, Corfe Castle, Colehill, Portland Underhill, Puddletown, Stalbridge and Wool.

Two members of Ad Lib, which has been campaigning for the retention of all 34 libraries, addressed councillors at the meeting and urged them to adopt Option D.

Mike Chaney, chairman of the Friends of Puddletown Library, told members that the same savings could be achieved through both options and questioned why council officers were recommending Option B, which involved losing libraries from the core network.

He said: “We are led to the conclusion that the underlying reason for this relentless drive to get shot of libraries is because the managers in Dorset believe that only big is beautiful.

“They just don't like small libraries yet, as you have seen this morning, the people that use them do.”

Council leader Angus Campbell insisted that the vote would be a free vote and members of his Conservative party, which held the majority on the council, had not been given any directive on which way they would vote.

The council’s cabinet member for corporate resources Spencer Flower, who like Coun Campbell indicated he would be voting for Option B, stressed that those libraries that would lose funding would still receive support from the council so the community could take on the facility.

He said: “I'm not going to vote for closing the libraries, I’m going to vote for keeping the libraries open, all be it in a different way.

“We have to accept the fact that we have to live within our means.”

When members went to the vote on the two options, the decision was in the balance until council chairman John Wilson cast the last vote to see Option B win by 21 votes to 21.

Following the decision Mr Chaney said: “Our reaction is bitter disappointment.

“To get so near and have it dashed from our lips by just one vote is gutting.”