Library '˜won't lose out''¨as fines for late book '¨returns will be scrapped

LIBRARIES across the city will soon scrap fees for the late return of books.

Portsmouth City Council has insisted it will not lose out despite cutting its losses on £16,000 generated through fines.

The council believes it will free up resources and encourage more people to use the library – something especially important in an age of choice where people can use the internet.

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Figures from the past six years show thousands of books are still overdue with people electing not to return books – costing the council significant funds with staff time and resources when issuing fines, as well as reissuing books.

Portsmouth Library Service has confirmed that over 6,000 items were overdue in 2013, nearly 5,000 were late in 2014, over 4,500 were late in 2015, and just under 4,500 were overdue in 2016. More than 7,000 were still outstanding from 2017, though this figure is expected to decrease as more books are still expected to be returned.

Cllr Linda Symes said: ‘Cutting out library fines is something that is really starting to catch on with places around the world and closer to home taking similar steps. In this day of the internet where there is so much choice it is important to give people a reason to want to come to the library and not put them off.

‘We believe it is a good move, not a bad move. It will stop confrontation and disputes and issues with people who are late with returning books.

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‘We don’t believe we will be losing out from the £16,000 we receive from fines as it will free up more staff and resources and there will be no need to reproduce books that aren’t returned.

‘Issuing fines at the moment is a complex process and we would rather staff were spending time doing other things to make them successful and a place people want to come and visit.’

The change in council policy has also been welcomed by Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who leads the city’s Liberal Democrats.

He said: ‘Other authorities have tried this and it seems to have had a positive effect. When late fees are enforced, what seems to happen is people become more and more nervous about returning books.

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‘And the money the council makes from those late fees is so tiny, that it’s actually more important the books come back at all – replacing them is expensive. I’m looking forward to seeing this tried in Portsmouth.’

The move comes after the council had opted to put up the price of fines in 2014.

Cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport at the city council, Cllr Lee Hunt, agreed to the rise after mounting pressure over the number of late returns. Fines for late books were due to rise by 1p, from 16p to 17p per day, up to amaximum of £8.50. The late return of CDs were meant to go up to 30p per day from 25p and DVDs were supposed to go up to 60p per day from 50p.

Cllr Hunt said at the time that if libraries were to survive the council ‘must tread carefully’ when issuing fines.