A shadow minister accused the Government of a "dereliction of duty" over library closures during a visit to Golders Green.

Shadow Culture Minister Chris Bryant visited Golders Green Library yesterday with Sarah Sackman, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, to discuss the future of the borough's libraries. 

The Labour frontbencher claimed that more than one in ten libraries had closed since 2010, which amounted to a “dereliction of duty” from the Government.

He said: “The cowardly bit is they didn’t cut services, they cut the money to local authorities. They are trying to wash their hands of it, saying it’s nothing to do with me that Barnet is closing libraries."

However, Mr Bryant criticised Barnet Borough Council’s recent consultation into library cuts as being “appalling”.

Mr Bryant added: “It was basically offering three unpalatable options and I just don’t think that’s a genuine consultation at all.”

Questions were put to the shadow minister about whether he would legislate to protect libraries.

Mr Bryant said he did not want to encumber councils with more legislation, and that there could be “significant benefits” from more co-operation amongst neighbouring authorities.

“The last thing I think they want now is some know-it-all in Westminster telling everyone everywhere how to run local services”, he added.

Mr Bryant also acknowledged that the role of a library had changed, and many faced a “real challenge” in adapting to digital services.

Discussing the use of volunteers, he said: “They are brilliant, but they don’t replace librarians. I am not completely opposed to a volunteer-run library. If that’s the only solution to a particular area, then fine.”

Councillors are due to vote on a motion tonight to halt £2.85m cuts to the service and hold a new library consultation giving different options.

Conservative councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, has said: “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.”