A major shake-up of Barnet’s library service had a “negative impact” on disabled people, according to a survey.

An independent evaluation of the borough’s libraries reveals 68 per cent of those surveyed said the changes had a negative impact on them, rising to 75 per cent of disabled people.

Most respondents – 56 per cent – said they visited libraries less often than they did before the changes were made.

The evaluation, which was carried out by an organisation called Activist Group, includes feedback from surveys that gathered the views of more than 1,000 people.

It will be discussed at a meeting of the community leadership and libraries committee on Thursday (March 5).

Barnet Council launched a major overhaul of the libraries service in 2016, which it claims has saved £1.6 million per year and led to longer library opening hours.

The changes mean some libraries are now left unstaffed at certain hours, during which people can gain access using a card and PIN code.

While some local authorities have closed libraries in response to Government funding cuts, all 14 of Barnet’s libraries have remained open.

But the evaluation reveals some disabled people reported problems accessing library buildings and using the toilets, which are closed during self-service hours.

The review states: “The reduction in staffed opening hours has gone too far, particularly given the low number of volunteers.”

It adds: “We have found that the reductions deter many library users and are a barrier to those young people who cannot access the library on their own during self-service opening hours and have impacted on people with disabilities.”

Activist Group recommends increasing staffed opening hours and reviewing the policy of keeping toilets closed during self-service hours.

The evaluation also reveals there are some areas in which a majority of people are satisfied with the service, including the range of books available and the tidiness and cleanliness of buildings.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of Barnet Council’s community leadership and libraries committee, said: “It is very pleasing to see the independent evaluation recognise what we are doing well, including being extremely impressed by our extensive programme of events for all ages, acknowledging that self-service opening has been popular with many users, and the passionate commitment of our library staff.

“It has also been helpful in highlighting other aspects we may need to look at further and the committee are now due to carefully consider the evaluation’s recommendations.

“We were committed to having an independent evaluation look at the changes we have made to our libraries and help identify any additional improvements we can make. This follows the Secretary of State confirming he was content that we are offering a comprehensive and efficient service.”

The community leadership and libraries committee will be held at 7pm on Thursday, March 5 at Hendon Town Hall.

The evaluation is available here.