PLANS to move council services into a town library have been condemned after they were pushed through without public consultation.

East Lothian Council plans to move the majority of its services from its Aldhammer House offices in Prestonpans into the town’s library.

The move comes just 16 months after a public consultation on similar plans in which three quarters of those who took part objected to the change, leading the council to scrap the proposal.

The council said the move was part of a review of its service provision; however, it has been criticised for not taking the plan back to the community before making the decision.

Brian Weddell, chairman of Prestonpans Community Council, said: “It is extremely disappointing that East Lothian Council are pressing ahead with service changes in Prestonpans that were rejected last year.

“Prestonpans Community Council and other local community organisations should have been consulted on these changes rather than being presented with a fait accompli and we would ask that the council assure the local community that they will consult fully on the future proposals for Aldhammer House.”

The proposal to turn the library, which was built in 1905 through funds from Scottish philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, into a shared facility and move council services from their offices in the town’s Aldhammer House, was first put to the public in June 2016.

At the time the community council raised concerns that merging the services would take away people’s views of the library as a safe and neutral area.

And at a public meeting in the town Manja Porteus, then six, whose dad Tim is a professional storyteller and Courier columnist, appealed to the council to rethink its proposals and leave the library alone.

Following a public consultation, the council announced it had scrapped the plans in March last year, stating that “the majority of respondents said they wanted the two services to remain in separate buildings and did not want to see any changes to the library building.”

However, last week they said that a wide range of services would move into the library from August 27.

Councillor Jim Goodfellow, cabinet spokesperson for community wellbeing, said: “As more of our customers make use of online services and library staff are readily available to help people to go online, the council has reviewed its service provision and Aldhammer House will be developed to provide complementary services which give more support to the local community.

“Meanwhile, Prestonpans Library will be developed as a joint library/area office as has been done in Dunbar, North Berwick and Tranent.

“This builds on the council’s work to strengthen our communities and support town centres such as Prestonpans with easy access to high-quality local facilities and services.”

Aldhammer House will continue to be staffed by housing service staff, as well as keeping The Pantry Foodbank, Citizens Advice Bureau and local politicians’ surgeries. Capital Credit Union will also continue to operate part-time there. All other services will move to the library.

The changes were welcomed by some on social media, who said it had worked in other communities.

One person said: “Does it really matter where you pay your rent or fill in forms? If the council can’t afford it then they can’t afford it.”

However, there was an angry response from others.

One woman said: “This is an outrage, what can we do? Are they determined to strip Prestonpans of everything?”

A council spokesperson said: “The changes being made differ from those proposed in 2016. Housing enquiries will continue to be dealt with at Aldhammer House, while payments for other services can be made at the library. This will in turn improve the range of services available at our improved library – and we are grateful for the positive feedback we have received on this from customers so far.”

Tim Porteus, Prestonpans storyteller and Courier columnist, said: “I’m disappointed. I recognise the council is under pressure to make cuts but they should say that it what is about: saving money.”