5 January 2017

Councillors to debate possible new library fees and charges

Councillors are set to vote on whether to increase and introduce certain fees and charges for the council’s library services.

With cuts in Government funding and falling income from library services, the council is looking at ways to help balance the libraries budget for the coming year.

The main changes being proposed are in three areas - printing and photocopying charges, reintroducing an overdue charge for children and young people between 0-19 years, and charging up front for reservations.

The decision will be taken at a meeting of the Economic Development and Culture (EDC) Committee a week today (Thursday 12 Jan).

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.”

If agreed, the charge would be introduced for the first time since 2008 and cost 10p a day to a maximum of £2.50. Vulnerable children would be exempt and staff would have the discretion to waive charges in special circumstances like illness.

Cllr Robins added: “There will be exemptions, and charges can be waived. The council also sends reminder emails and texts to borrowers at least 5 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.”    

The library service must raise a total of £46,700 due to traditional income, including DVD rentals and overdue charges, falling by £27,500, the need to deliver £10,000 in budget savings and rising inflation costs of £9,200.

Printing A4 and A3 black & white and A4 colour in the council’s libraries last rose in 2015. But, if councillors agree, the charges will rise from 12p to 20p for A4 black & white and 20p to 30p for A3 black & white. For A4 colour and A3 colour (which last rose in 2000) the charges will be 60p to £1 and £1 to £1.50 respectively.

Photocopier charges for A4 and A3 black & white will increase for the first time in two years from 12p to 20p and 20p to 30p. Colour copying for A4 and A3 will remain the same at £1 and £1.50. The last time this charge increased was 2000.

Adults and young people wanting to reserve library items like books will now be charged before staff begin the search rather than when the item has been found and allocated to the person. The charges remain the same at £1 for items in stock in B&H libraries; £3 for an inter-library loans from authorities in the SELMS (South East Library Management) Consortium, Europe’s largest library system; and £7 for an inter-library loans from outside Brighton & Hove and SELMS.

Last year the council received 44,000 reservation requests at a cost of 84p each in staff time if in B&H libraries and £18.15 if outside the city. However, 26,900 of these requests were cancelled and therefore not charged for despite the work being carried out by library staff.

Cllr Robins added: “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 fees and charges for the Library and Information Services are reviewed annually in line with the Corporate Fees & Charges Policy.