Cuts to Barnet’s libraries could be prevented after an extraordinary council meeting was called.

Barnet’s Labour councillors have put forward a motion to be debated at the next full council meeting to halt plans to cut £2.85m from the borough’s libraries, and to consult residents again on different options.

Options have been laid out by Barnet Borough Council for the future of the service, which could see libraries closed, reduced in size or staffed by volunteers. 

A public consultation that can be accessed here is due to end on Sunday. 

The cuts are not due to take place until next year.

Labour group leader Councillor Alison Moore said: “Residents are being asked to agree with one of three unacceptable options. We need to stop this consultation because it’s been flawed. We need to go back to the drawing board and look at it again, as we run the risk of throwing it away.

“We need to be more cost effective, but there are other ways. Other authorities are making tough decisions about libraries, but there’s nowhere putting plans to decimate libraries across the borough.

“There are Conservative councillors who feel very strongly about their libraries, and we are giving them the opportunity to step back.”

The motion will be discussed at the full council meeting on March 3, when the authority’s budget is set for the next year.

Conservative councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, said: “Labour’s use of extraordinary meetings is becoming somewhat routine and it is a shame that they have shunned previous opportunities to engage in the democratic process and contribute to the development of the consultation options.

“They have timed this meeting to virtually coincide with the end of a significant and wide-reaching consultation. At a time when we should be poring through the 1500 plus responses, they want us to throw them out.

"No savings are being made to libraries this year and no decisions on the future shape of the service will be taken until the feedback has been analysed and used to inform refined plans, which would then be fully discussed. We have always been clear that we are keen to hear alternative suggestions and the consultation was this opportunity.

“Why, though, have Labour still not offered their budget proposals and told us what they would cut to fund an ‘enhanced’ library service? Perhaps because they have no plan other than opposition; perhaps because, where Labour are running neighbouring councils, they are closing libraries and cutting staff and opening hours.”