Wigan libraries owed more than £75k in unpaid fines

More than £75,000 is owed to the borough’s libraries in unpaid fines - despite no charges for overdue books being imposed for months.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 9:49 am
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 9:51 am
One of the libraries in Wigan - Shevington library

Wigan Council announced it would waive fines for overdue books from April 1, no matter how late they were, as libraries were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite this, a request made to the local authority under the Freedom of Information Act revealed fines worth a total of £75,810.90 remain outstanding.

The largest single fine is £30, owed for borrowing DVD Borgen – The Complete Series One and Two, which should have been returned three weeks after it was taken from the library.

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There are 22,308 overdue items in total, with the closure of libraries for several months this year due to the pandemic believed to have played a part in this.

Coun Chris Ready, the council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “We understand that people sometimes forget to return their library books on time and previously we imposed small fines on late returns.

“Library fees and charges were reviewed for 2020/21 and fines for overdue loans were not implemented from April this year. Given the current economic issues, in part due to the pandemic, we didn’t want the cost of fines to prevent residents visiting or joining our libraries and benefitting from the service.

“A decision is still to be made on outstanding historical fines, weighing up the cost effectiveness of collecting the outstanding fees. We do not want residents deterred from returning to libraries if they have fines to pay but are unable to afford these at present.”

Libraries across the borough had to close their doors when the Prime Minister announced the first national lockdown in March.

Council teams worked hard to ensure the safe reopening of Wigan and Leigh life centres and libraries at the end of July, with more libraries around the borough opening in September.

The council was keen to safely open libraries to the tens of thousands of members, recognising the important role they play in supporting residents, providing a hive of activity within communities and preventing social isolation.

But community libraries were closed again in October until 2021, so staff could instead get involved in the track and trace system and other essential services during the second wave of the pandemic.

The council has not yet announced when they will reopen.

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