Manchester

Oldham library fines axed to help those in 'deprived wards' with overdue books

Oldham Library Image copyright Pimlico Badger/Flickr
Image caption The council will stop charging fines from the start of August

Library fines are to be scrapped in Oldham after the council found the majority of people owing money were from the town's "most deprived wards".

The authority found there were 2,118 books overdue, most of which were in the town centre and northern wards.

Council leader Sean Fielding said fines had become "a barrier" to people who the authority believes would "benefit to use the library".

The council will stop charging a fine in its 12 libraries from August.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the council currently charges adults 15p a day for overdue books, with under 18s and over 60s fined 5p.

The amount is capped at a maximum of £7.50 an item and there is no charge for under 13s.

Teenagers and over 60s are currently charged 5p a day for overdue books while adults are fined 15p with a maximum of £7.50 an item. There is no charge for under 13s.

A report to the council's cabinet found £18,000 in fines was collected in 2018 but that was predicted to drop to £10,000 across the next three years.

Addressing a cabinet meeting, Mr Fielding said fines "have been found to be a barrier to some people who we believe it would be of benefit to use the library, and no barrier to people who have plenty of money who can just afford to pay".

Deputy leader Arooj Shah said people "end up not going [because] fines just accumulate and accumulate".

She added that abolishing the penalties "removes barriers and the most vulnerable can attend".

Mr Fielding said the move was also unlikely to result in loss of stock.

"If you were going to steal a book and never return it, you wouldn't be bothered about the fine anyway," he said.

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