The council has denied claims that an upcoming review of libraries involves a “cover-up” of the impact the cuts will have on disabled people and other groups.

Campaigners from Save Barnet Libraries slammed a planned evaluation of the borough’s libraries as falling “far short of what is necessary” and demanded a “full and transparent inquiry” into cuts to the service.

Their comments came amid concerns that some of the recent changes to the service have had a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities.

Barnet Council announced a shake-up of libraries in 2016, cutting the number of hours at which staff were available and rolling out a self-service model that allowed people to gain access using PIN codes.

Save Barnet Libraries says this has led to many children being shut out of libraries and has sparked complaints that some people – including those with disabilities – are being denied toilet access.

But the council claims the review will include consultation with disabled people and youngsters, and denied allegations of a “cover-up”.

Save Barnet Libraries member Mary Beer said: “Everyone who does more than pop into the library needs access to a toilet.

“And it’s not just about the removal of staff, but also the removal of space – which the council says isn’t even part of the inquiry.

“Without covering these issues properly and engaging proactively with residents and community groups affected, it looks to us like this is just an attempt to cover up the truth about the wide scale impact of the cuts”

Save Barnet Libraries complained to the Government in 2017 that the council’s library shake-up was unlawful and called for a public inquiry into cutbacks to the service.

The pressure group said the changes were in breach of the council’s statutory duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service as set out in the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

But arts minister Michael Ellis wrote to the council in April saying the Secretary of State was satisfied the library service complied with the relevant legislation and ruled out holding a public inquiry.

Barnet Council will instead appoint an independent agency to carry out a review of the service.

The council also denied covering up statistics on visitor numbers and said figures had been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Cllr Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the community leadership and libraries committee, said: “While objectors continue to make a number of claims, the fact remains that our redesigned service has allowed us to keep open every one of our libraries.

“There is no cover up. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has carefully examined the new service and the Secretary of State agrees that we are offering a comprehensive and efficient service.

“We continue to offer an excellent range of services and a packed calendar of events and activities to our residents.

“The proposed independent evaluation of the new service will look at a whole range of aspects and recommend how we may be able to make further improvements.”

The evaluation will be discussed at a meeting of the community leadership and libraries committee at Hendon Town Hall today (June 11), which will start at 7pm.