Children who return their books late to libraries in Brighton and Hove will have to pay a fine from the spring.
The decision was made as part of a plan to make up a budget shortfall of almost £50,000, members of Brighton and Hove City Council were told yesterday (Thursday 12 January).
But the fine will be 10p a day up to a maximum of £2.50, with vulnerable children exempt and staff given the discretion to waive fines in special circumstances such as illness.
Children have not had to pay fines since 2008 and under the new regime they will be sent reminder emails or text messages before their books are due back.
Charges will also rise for printing and photocopying and for reserving books. And reservations will have to be paid for in advance from April.
Councillors were astonished to hear that an inter-library loan can cost the council £18.15. When it’s cheaper, staff try to purchase the requested book even if it’s out of print and it means searching secondhand book websites.
Councillor Alan Robins, who chairs the council’s Economic Development and Culture Committee, said: “Each time a residents 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 five Conservative and Green opposition councillors tried to block the overdue fines for children and young people up to 19 years old.
But the five Labour councillors voted in favour and Councillor Robins used his casting vote to pass the change.