Children set to be charged for late books at Brighton and Hove libraries

Jubilee Library, Brighton
Jubilee Library, Brighton

Young people could be charged 10p a day for overdue library books if money-saving measures are approved by the council next week.

The plans include re-introducing an overdue charge for children for the first time since 2008. Under 19s, who are currently exempt from charges, would have to pay up to a maximum of £2.50 for late books.

Cllr Alan Robins, chair of the economic development and culture committee on Brighton and Hove City Council

Cllr Alan Robins, chair of the economic development and culture committee on Brighton and Hove City Council

Other changes include increasing printing and photocopying charges and charging up front for reservations.

The plans will be discussed at the economic development and culture committee next Thursday (December 12).

Cllr Alan Robins, chair of the committee, said: “These proposed changes are not welcome, but they are necessary due to government funding cuts and shrinking income from our library services.

“We are concentrating on three main areas, including reintroducing overdue charges for children’s items as many are returned very overdue which isn’t fair on other children who may want them. We felt adults and children needed an incentive that was both fair and accountable.”

Children's section at Woodingdean Library SUS-151125-172734001

Children's section at Woodingdean Library SUS-151125-172734001

He added that vulnerable children would be exempt and staff would have the discretion to waive charges in special circumstances.

Cllr Robins said: “There will be exemptions, and charges can be waived. The council also sends reminder emails and texts to borrowers at least five days before items are due for return, and they can also be renewed very easily online. These reminders and the online service have worked very well in helping adults borrow and return and we believe that will be the same for children’s items.”

Councillors will also discuss plans for raising printing charges from 12p to 20p for A4 black and white, and 20p to 30p for A3 black and white. For A4 colour and A3 colour the charges would rise from 60p to £1, and £1 to £1.50 respectively.

Photocopier charges for A4 and A3 black and white could increase from 12p to 20p, and 20p to 30p. Colour copying for A4 and A3 will remain the same at £1 and £1.50.

The committee will also consider charging library users when they reserve a book, rather than when they collect it. Charges will remain the same, at £1 for books in Brighton and Hove libraries, and £3 for books with authorities in the South East.

The reason for the move, according to the council, is that last year Brighton and Hove’s libraries received 44,000 reservation requests, but 26,900 of these requests were cancelled and therefore not charged for, despite the work carried out by library staff.

Cllr Robins said: “Each time a resident requests a reservation it costs the council, and therefore the taxpayer, money. When items are then cancelled it means a financial loss to the council. It makes sense that if someone wants to reserve something they pay in advance and that way the council doesn’t lose out if the item is no longer needed.”

The fees and charges for the Library and Information Services are reviewed annually by Brighton and Hove City Council.