An 11th-hour bid to block controversial plans to introduce volunteer-led libraries has failed by one vote after a councillor had to leave the key meeting early.

Surrey County Council's community’s select committee met yesterday, October 18, to review the cabinet’s decision to replace professional staff with volunteers at 10 libraries across Surrey including Ewell Court, Tattenhams and Stoneleigh.

At the meeting two Conservative councillors, two Liberal Democrats and one Residents’ Association councillor voted against the plans.

Remaining Tories voted in favour bringing the vote to five all and allowing the chairman a casting vote to approve the plans.

However if Residents Association Councillor for Epsom and Ewell West, Jan Mason had not left the meeting early for an urgent hospital appointment, the unpopular plans would have been thrown out five to six against.

She said: "I have never missed a council meeting and I am the one who will stay there till the very end, but in this case I had to make the decision to put my health first.

"In a way I don’t feel I have let people down.

"I feel I have done my utmost in all that we have done, but that I just couldn’t put this off."

"I just feel so sorry that all these volunteers are doing it with a gun to their head, knowing that their libraries will close if they are not there to run them."

Coun Mason was one of three councillors, along with Liberal Democrats Councillor John Orrick and Councillor Colin Taylor, who called in the decision after the cabinet voted in favour of the plans at a meeting on September 27.

Liberal Democrat and Surrey County Councillor for Epsom and Ewell South-West, Colin Taylor said: "I’m encouraged by the fact that two Conservative councillors felt strongly enough to vote against their own party.

"If she had been able to stay it would have been thrown out six to five.

"In all my time in the council I have never seen that happen."

Volunteers will now be introduced at libraries across Surrey in place of professional staff in a bidto keep libraries open and save the council £300,000.

Volunteers due to take over the running of Stoneleigh library said: "The Friends of Stoneleigh Library are committed to providing a vibrant community library which is an enriching and responsive resource for all.

"It is hoped that the library will become an effective community run library by April 2012 and become a showpiece for the area."

The cabinet is set to review the scheme in December.