KENNET District Council has been slammed for its total lack of consultation over a proposal to shut Marlborough's tourist information centre.

When Kennet issued a press statement saying it intended moving the centre to the town's library as a cost cutting exercise even some of its own members were unaware of the plan.

It said the project is part of a bid to move tourism into the 21st century and proposes having automated on-street kiosks offering access to web based information.

Tucked away almost at the bottom of the press release was the proposal to close the present tourist centre and merge it with the Local Information Point in the town library.

District councillor Bill Cavill, who is also Mayor of Marlborough, said it was the first he had heard of the suggestion when the Gazette told him about it on Tuesday.

Former mayor Margaret Boulton is Marlborough's representative on Wiltshire County Council, which runs the library service. She said: "I knew nothing about it until I was told about the press release."

Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Wells was tipped off by a member of the Marlborough Area Development Trust who spotted the press release on Kennet's web site. Mr Wells said: "The proposal seems absurd."

He said the town's economy was dependent on tourism and said a disproportionately large number of the town's businesses were geared towards trade from tourists and visitors.

"To support this type of business an effective the tourist information centre is essential and I find it unlikely that our library, already pressed for space, would be able to cope with the extra burden as well as its excellent Local Information Point," he said.

"This appears to be yet another heavy-handed and ill-conceived proposal from the district council."

Town councillor Richard Allen said he was appalled. "To my knowledge there has been no local consultation on this matter, just an arbitrary decision made by people who clearly do not understand either the needs of or the logistics of this fine and welcoming tourist town," he said.

Clyde Nancarrow, the tourism representative on the Marlborough and District Community Partnership set up by Kennet, said the proposals had come as a complete surprise.

He said: "The tourist information centre in Marlborough is very highly regarded. If there was a league table for such institutions, it would come very high up on it."

Kennet says it intends concentrating services at the new tourist information centre in Avebury. It is not yet known how many jobs will be lost in the shake-up, but a council spokesman said that it would be achieved by voluntary redundancy and natural wastage.