Thousands owed in library fines

BOOKWORMS who fail to return their library books on time owe thousands of pounds in overdue fines.

Hartlepool Borough Council is owed more than £31,000 in unpaid library fines due to borrowers failing to take back their books when they should.

Library chiefs say the “vast majority” of people return their books on time. But there is a small minority who fail to return them and are issued with a fine.

New figures released by the council show that since 2008 the total amount of fines issued is £62,701 – £31,682 of which has been paid.

That leaves an outstanding balance of £31,019.

The fines relate to books taken out from libraries across town.

Hartlepool has the main Central Library plus branch libraries at Owton Manor, Seaton Carew, Throston Grange, West View and on the Headland.

Foggy Furze Library, in Stockton Road, was closed earlier this year by council bosses in a bid to save £47,536 due to budget cuts.

In 2008-09 the amount of fines owed was £21,637 – £12,241 of which is yet to be paid.

The following year fines totalling £10,624 were issued though £979 worth have yet to be settled.

In 2010-11, the council issued £18,280 of fines for overdue books and of that amount £9,894 is yet to be paid.

Meanwhile, so far this year fines worth £12,160 have been issued and the amount still unpaid is £7,905.

That brings a total amount of unpaid fines to £31,019 for the past four years.

A council spokesman said: “The vast majority of library users return their books on time. But there are a small minority who return their books late and we impose a fine.

“We do attempt to collect fines but there are always going to be situations where it’s simply impossible to recover, especially where such small amounts are involved.

“We are a caring council and will always exercise discretion when pursuing unpaid fines.”

Foggy Furze Library closed its doors for the final time at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Throston Grange Library is to be merged with the nearby Throston Community Centre to save £30,877.

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