Barnet council spent £83,000 more on its consultation about cutting libraries than its neighbour in Harrow.

A Freedom of Information request from the Times Series revealed Barnet spent £91,662.50 on the survey earlier this year.

In comparison, Harrow council – which shut four of its libraries for good this week – spent £8,275.

The total cost of Barnet's library review was £200,000 - which includes the £91,000 spent on the consultation.

Barnet council has now come under fire from campaigners who say that the figure is “extortionate”.

Ben Jackson, of Hillcourt Avenue, Finchley, said: “Are the books bound in gold? Was the consultation paper carved in marble? How on earth does it cost that much?

“It’s an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money. You could ask anyone in the street how they feel about libraries closing and they’d give you the same answer that an overpriced consultant would.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if libraries are cut, reading rates will go down and people will cram into already overcrowded libraries.”

Nearly £80,000 of the £91,000 was spent on employing independent company Opinion Research Services to carry out the consultation.

A total of £899 was spent on venue hire and refreshments, £9,000 on printing surveys and £179 on delivering questionnaires to analysts.

Barnet is planning to cut £2.85m from its library budget. Options include closing libraries, shrinking them or staffing them with volunteers.

More than 2,000 people responded to the consultation, which ended in February, and a decision on libraries' future is due to be made later this year.

And although the authourity promised to present the results of the consultation in April, this is yet to happen.

Campaigners determined to save libraries and have previously said they are “precious”, adding it would be a tragedy if they were closed.

Richard Logue, part of the group hoping to save Mill Hill Library, which is at risk of being closed, said: “Barnet is happy to spend money on consultants but not on services. Where are their priorities?

“This is a shocking amount of money considering the neighbouring borough spent less than a tenth of that. It seems that unless it comes from the mouths of consultants, they don’t believe it.”

In a statement, Conservative Councillor Reuben Thompstone, who is in charge of libraries, said: “The future of the library service is important to a lot of people in Barnet and it was our main priority to ensure that we had the most extensive, inclusive and independent consultation process possible.

“The way our residents use our libraries has changed over time and it is only right that we make sure that the service reflects this. We have to make difficult decisions about our libraries and I believe we can only get this right by hearing what our residents think.

“Together with the independent company, Opinion Research Services, we captured the views of thousands of library users, residents and other groups through an online and paper based survey, multiple focus groups and public meetings across the borough.”