A PENSIONERS’ group says it is wrong that old people are to be charged for borrowing audiobooks – a service that was previously free.
Hampshire County Council has brought in a 60p charge for borrowing the items as part of a raft of new fees.
Previously, the service was free to anyone aged 60 or over, but now only blind or partially-sighted people can borrow audiobooks without being charged.
Chris Perry, director of Age UK Hampshire, said: ‘We understand the council, like all councils, has to save money.
‘But this is yet another measure which means pension-age people will be charged for services they previously received free.
‘There are reasons why this happens so often at the moment, but it’s wrong to make innocent older people pay for problems caused by others.’
The council must save £55m this year because of government cuts and it hopes the charges will raise £374,000 per year, compared with the £344,000 it made from fees, reservations and fines last year.
Its library services have a budget of £18m per year.
As The News reported last week, the new fees include fines for children who return items late.
Mr Perry added: ‘We don’t blame the council itself.
‘But it’s very hard for older people in this country to accept increased costs in all areas of their lives, because they are certainly not earning any money.
‘Across the UK, more than £1bn of services have been removed to older people. Yet those who caused the global economic crisis are taking home huge wages while normal people pay for the mess they made. We need a new approach. Rises like the council’s are no more than shifting deckchairs on the Titanic.’
The council’s leader for culture and recreation Cllr Keith Chapman said: ‘The new charges will enable our library and information service to ensure that as many books as possible are available to borrow, encourage responsible borrowing and make sure that our charges keep up with our costs.
‘They were supported by the culture and communities select committee, made up of cross-party members.’