Library fines put £1m in city council coffers

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The news comes in the wake of cost-cutting measures that propose to replace 13 libraries with mobile services in a bid to save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

This extra stream of income for Leeds City Council stems from the fact that last year over 355,000 items were returned late to the city’s libraries.

A council spokeswoman said: “We do not anticipate a big reduction in the number of people visiting and borrowing from our libraries following the new chapter changes.

“As a result of this we do not expect the number of fines issued to change significantly.”

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also state that in 2010-11 the council charged more than £345,000 in library fines.

Fine rates during this time have been 20p per day for adults, 15p per day for senior citizens and concessions and 10p per day for children under 16.

Despite this the highest outstanding bill, which is owed by a parent and two children for whom the parent is guarantor, stands at £296.

Any library fines collected go straight back into the council’s budget.

The spokeswoman said: “The new mobile library service will be convenient for many communities and many of the existing libraries will be open for longer, to make them accessible for more people.

“We do understand that people can be discouraged from using library services if they have existing fines and we want to help to reduce the number of people who run into problems with charges.”

There are currently 53 libraries in Leeds and the council late last year outlined proposals for a shake-up that left 20 of those facing severe changes.

Following a public consultation, that prompted more than 4,300 responses, it was proposed to replace 15 with mobile services, saving £625,000 a year.

That number of closures has since been reduced to 13 as now Shadwell, Drighlington, Cow Close in Farnley and Rawdon libraries have been allowed to stay open to allow talks over them becoming community-run.

But if community asset transfer cannot be achieved they will close at the end of March 2012.

Scholes and Methley will remain open 15 hours a week, Whinmoor will be open for 15 hours and the council’s Early Years department will move into the building to provide services for pregnant women and families.

Within the shake-up it is believed that 25 libraries will have their opening hours extended, while eight will keep their current hours.

The spokeswoman added that the council try to minimise charges by allowing books to be returned to any of the city’s libraries as well as enabling 24 hour renewals by phone (0845 1207271) or online by visiting librarycatalogue.leedslearning.net.