Campaigners have warned libraries will lose space and facilities to a business start-up scheme.

Barnet Council has made plans to lease spaces as business hubs to Wimbletech, a business space provider that uses under-utilised space in public buildings.

The scheme is to rent out desks in three library buildings, East Finchley, North Finchley and Chipping Barnet libraries as part of Wimbletech’s Workary scheme in Barnet.

Emily Burnham of campaign group Save Barnet Libraries says the plans are "too controversial and long term" to implement behind closed doors just before elections.

She said: “The evidence shows that this is not about meeting a genuine local need but all about finding tenants to fill the gaps left by the council’s disastrous approach to the library service.”

If the plans go ahead, East Finchley library building will be renting out 20 desk spaces, starting at £65 a month.

Ms Burnham added: “It’s crucial that residents have their say before the Conservative-run council takes away our space and facilities for good.”

Jayne Lobley, a mum-of-two from East Finchley said: “The computer classes at the library helped me update my skills so I could apply for work after a career break as a full-time mum.

“These free classes were very accessible to local people and served a wide range of residents but can no longer be held at East Finchley since the cuts to staff and facilities.

“We were always full to bursting with children studying during exam time, there were even queues to get inside at these times.

“Contrary to Wimbletech’s claims to 'support libraries', this will not be true of the business hub, the council has separated the funding for the library service from the commercial exploitation of the library buildings.”

A council spokesman said: “In 2017 we redesigned Barnet’s libraries service following extensive consultation, maintaining 14 library buildings and reconfiguring some of the buildings to include space for hire or rent.

"We are working with community interest company Wimbletech.

"It has a track record of positive working in libraries, in three of our libraries to pilot an initiative to offer affordable co-working space for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses.”