A SECOND public consultation into the future of Barnet’s library service has been launched.

Councillors last month voted to keep libraries open, but reduced in size, with 46 per cent of staff axed and four run by volunteers.

Opening hours will also be increased through the use of technology and unstaffed hours, but staffed hours will be cut.

Barnet Council hopes the library proposals will save £2.27million by 2020, to help it meet an overall budget gap of £98.4million to 2020.

The authority has now begun a ten week consultation on the proposals, which will run until January 6 2016.

It follows an earlier consultation which took place between November 2014 and February this year, which gathered 3,800 responses.

The consultation and questionnaire can be found at engage.barnet.gov.uk and paper copies of the questionnaire will be available in libraries.

A final decision will be made in the spring.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, Conservative chairman of the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee, said: “These are extremely important proposals which would see us maintain the same number of libraries as well as keep the home, mobile and digital services and increase access to libraries using new technology to extend opening hours.

“I believe these proposals reflect just how much people clearly value our libraries while balancing the need for the council to make savings across its services.

“I would like to encourage as many people as possible to take the time to take part in this period of public consultation and to give us their views.”

But library campaigner Mary Beer-Cleasby, of Chandos Road, East Finchley, criticised the proposals put forward.

She said: “The skills needed to run a true and valuable library will not be found amongst volunteers. The citizens of Barnet were very clear in the previous consultation - that cost £200,000 - that volunteers were only to be used to enhance existing services.

“Furthermore, the size reductions being proposed in this new consultation are not minor. You are talking about taking half the space away of already crowded, well-used and growing amenities.

“Therefore a new consultation on something already ruled out - both the use of volunteers and shrinking the space - seems very disingenuous and a waste of taxpayers’ money that could be spent on investing in the literacy and digital skills small and big businesses need and which our libraries provide from professionals.”