Library users brought to book as fines go up

Library charges in Blackpool are being increased as part of measures to protect the service from budget cuts.
Blackpool Central LibraryBlackpool Central Library
Blackpool Central Library

Borrowers will face a maximum fine of £10, up from £6, for overdue items although daily fines for late returns will remain at the current rate of 20p.

In future only children aged under 18 will be exempt from being fined for the late return of a loaned item.

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The cost of reserving books from other libraries will double from £2 to £4.

Other changes will include charges for the full cost of any lost stock, whereas at the moment people only have to pay half the replacement cost if the item is more than three years old.

People will also have to pay to use the toilets at Central Library, partly to deter anti-social behaviour.

The biggest increase will be for the hire of drama, orchestral and vocal sets where new charges will range from £10 to £40 compared to between £2 and £5 currently.

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Town hall chiefs hope the changes will help the council generate the £100,000 of revenue they say is necessary in order to protect Blackpool’s libraries from potential future cuts.

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A report by Alan Cavill, director of place at the council, says: “The current pattern of fees and charges has not been reviewed in full since 2010.

“Many charges have developed on an ad-hoc basis and a full review was necessary and timely.

“A full review has now been undertaken bearing in mind the costs of providing the service, the market conditions and the need to ensure that the service remains accessible to all users.

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“The proposed charges will ensure that a greater proportion of the costs of providing the service can be met from the service’s income generation and thus ensure that the service remains sustainable given the other pressures on the revenue budget set for 2016/17.”

Mr Cavill adds that while the increases for drama, orchestral and choral sets “appears to be significant”, it remains cheaper than a private provider, while Lancashire County Council is proposing charges of between £20 and £60 by comparison.

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The report says: “It is hoped that these changes will contribute towards the £100,000 contribution through income to the costs of providing the Libraries service as included in the General Fund Revenue Budget for 2016/17.”

This year Blackpool is having to cut £25m from its annual budget.

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Already in 2016, opening hours across Blackpool’s eight libraries have been reduced from 307 a week to 266-and-a-half to save almost £85,000.

Other ideas to increase library revenue include a cafe at Anchorsholme Library to be run by volunteers from a support group. In the past, five libraries were closed in Blackpool in 2004. Boundary and Mereside libraries came under threat in 2011 but were saved from closure.

Lancashire County Council is proposing to shut a number of libraries as part of its savings target of £200m.

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These include Cleveleys, Thornton, Lytham, Ansdell, Kirkham and Freckleton.

A consultation process is due to close on August 14 with campaigners signing petitions and holding marches in a bid to bring about a change of heart.