Councillors were urged to “stand up and be counted” and save Barnet’s libraries.

Two motions to decide the future of the authority’s “community living rooms” were put forward at a full council meeting at The Burroughs, Hendon, this evening.

The first, which included plans to close libraries, reduce their size and staff them with volunteers, will now go out to consultation after being approved.

It is hoped these changes could save £2.85million of the £72million the council needs to save over the next six years.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, the chairman of the education, libraries and safeguarding committee, said: “This isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.”

But Labour councillor Anne Hutton disagreed. She said: “This needs to be looked at carefully, this can’t be rushed. There are savings that have to be made but they don’t have to be made this week or this year.

“Libraries are community living rooms and the community hubs of our borough. There’s a golden opportunity to take a real look at what we already have and engage with the community.

“We should take our time to do this properly. There’s funding we can tap into.”

A second motion, put forward by Cllr Hutton, urged the authority to drop proposals to cut the library service by 60 per cent by closing six libraries, making those remaining smaller and staffed with volunteers.

The authority's only Liberal Democrat councillor Jack Cohen said: “It’s a sham. We should stand up and be counted and support this. How short sighted, to close libraries? We have regeneration schemes with more than 17,000 people moving into the borough – yet no libraries.”

Labour’s Amar Naqvi said: "Libraries have facilitated the person I have become today."

Cllr Hutton said: “There’s a golden opportunity to take as step back and look at our libraries from a holistic viewpoint, and then decide, together with the communities, what the best solution is.”

The motion was defeated.