A SENIOR council manager said residents were not consulted over plans to move services into an historic library because there was “no point”.

Eileen Morrison, customer services manager with East Lothian Council, told Prestonpans Community Council that the local authority had not held a public consultation before moving cash payment and benefits services into the town’s library because there was no other choice.

And she challenged claims there had been complaints about the decision, saying they had only surfaced in “the last couple of weeks”.

The transfer of some council services from its offices in the town’s Aldhammer House into the library, on West Loan, was announced less than 18 months after the local authority pledged not to merge services following a public consultation in which 76 per cent of those who took part objected to the move.

Following that consultation, in 2016, the council dropped its proposed merger; however last month it announced it was moving a large part of the services out of Aldhammer and into the library.

And it was revealed services had, in fact, been operating out of the library for several months.

Ms Morrison confirmed an interview pod had been moved into the library in December.

During a meeting of the community council, which objected to the merging of the services during the original consultation, Ms Morrison was asked why a second consultation had not been held before the move took place.

She said: “What was the point of a consultation? I could not staff a service at Aldhammer House.”

Ms Morrison told community councillors that staffing issues at the council offices meant she was unable to have two people, the minimum number required, covering the hours required there and staff the library service.

And she insisted the service move would benefit the library, which is the only Carnegie Library in East Lothian, by bringing more visitors in and allowing opening hours to be extended.

However community councillors insisted the town had made its view on the move clear in the first consultation.

DJ Johnston-Smith said they had brought a “cuckoo into the nest” by merging the facilities.

He said: “Prestonpans was very clear it did not want this to happen.

“We have a clear understanding of what a library is for and you are bringing a cuckoo into the nest.

“I do not believe children coming in for books or students looking for a quiet place to study should be confronted by people who are sometimes desperate for help.”

Ms Morrison pointed to the fact that the public consultation which came out against the move only had 120 responses leading some community councillors to question whether it was then fair to say it represented the entire town.

However community councillor John Reynolds said the interview pod placed in the library which he said was used by the welfare rights officer to conduct private interview was like “The Cube”.

He said: “It may be suited to a TV show but it is not suited to private interviews for people – you can be seen by everyone walking into the library.

Ms Morrison said a privacy screen was being installed after the issue was raised but she said: “The interview pod has been there since December 2017 and until a couple of weeks ago there were no complaints.”

Housing services remain in Aldhammer House and James Coutts, housing services manager, said the local authority would consult with the community about what other services they would like to see moved into the council building’s now vacant rooms.

Community council chairman Brian Weddell called for a working group to be set up to look at future council services in the town.