CAMPAIGNERS hoping to challenge library cuts in Barnet have taken the first step in legal action.

The Save Barnet Libraries group has sent a ‘letter before claim’ – a warning court proceedings could be taken- to Barnet Council over its proposals for the borough’s libraries.

It follows a crowdfunding appeal, launched in November, to mount a legal challenge, which raised more than £2,000 in just one day.

The council’s proposals will see Barnet’s libraries kept open, but reduced in size, while four will be run by volunteers and 46 per cent of staff made redundant.

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

The letter from Bindmans LLP says the second libraries consultation – which finishes on Wednesday (January 6) – is unlawful and “riddled” with errors.

It accuses the council of not having “adequately explained” its current proposal to people, which prevents them from making an informed response.

“Inadequate measures” are being taken to make sure the views of those who will be “worst affected” are heard, it adds.

The letter also says there are flaws in the unstaffed pilot at Edgware library, and says there is a lack of contingency plans, such as if not enough volunteers come forward.

It requests the council withdraws the current consultation paper and reconsider its position.

If it wishes to continue with the proposals, the council is asked to “take steps to consult and assess safety risks, need and impact lawfully in line with the obligations”.

Polly Napper, spokeswoman for Save Barnet Libraries, said: “We had an overwhelming response to our request for funds to pay for this legal action to oppose Barnet’s radical and untested proposal for unattended libraries.

“Within a day we reached our first target and, altogether, one hundred and fifty residents contributed via the crowdfunding site, ‘Crowdjustice’.”

Campaigner Emily Burnham said: “They’re keeping the buildings open but reducing the service so severely there’ll be almost nothing left. The consultation is much more limited than last year’s and it doesn’t even say what hours my library will be staffed.”

A council spokesman said: “We can confirm we have received a ‘letter before claim’ which we are currently reviewing and it would not be appropriate to comment on its contents.”