A £20,000 survey will be used to justify drastic cuts to Waltham Forest’s library service, a union has warned.

Company BMG were paid to gauge residents’ views on libraries across the borough, work which UNISON claims is usually carried out by library staff.

But Waltham Forest Council denied this and defended the move, saying the ‘independent’ research will help minimise the effects of an unprecedented reduction in government funding.

However, Dave Knight, of UNISON Waltham Forest, believes questions in the survey are loaded in order to justify cuts.

He said: "We believe this survey was not impartial and that questions on the survey are biased in order to achieve a pre-ordained outcome.

Mr Knight added that he fears the council could come down hard on union members who criticise the decision to hire a private company to carry out the research.

But Cllr Geraldine Reardon, cabinet member for the arts, said: "As we are doing with every single service we provide, we are currently looking at how we can make every penny we spend on our libraries count.

“The purpose of the survey is to look at all aspects of our library service in an independent and objective manner and find ways of doing things in a more efficient and cost effective way.

"The findings of the survey will influence the development plan for the library service.

"We know that our libraries are highly valued by our residents and provide a wealth of learning and leisure facilities, and, as such, any decisions about our libraries will not be taken lightly."

UNISON has said it will organise some public meetings at libraries to challenge any possible cuts to the service.

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