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Library users hit by fee hikes as axe hovers over 40 sites

Fines have been hiked, charges increased, and exemptions axed by the county council

Hyndburn libraries

Library users will be hit by a host of new charges in 2016, as services continue to be hammered by funding cuts.

Lancashire County Council (LCC), which is consulting on axing 40 libraries across the county - including five across Hyndburn - has agreed New Year charge increases.

The increases, which include a 2,067 per cent hike in loans from the British Library which was introduced this month, will see fines of 15p per day for late returns, and removal of fine exemptions for the elderly and vulnerable.

Under current rules, there are a number of exemptions to fines including over-65s and people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, but they will not be exempt when new rules are introduced.

The Observer has mounted a campaign to save our libraries, including Accrington, Oswaldtwistle, Great Harwood, Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors, with our petition so far signed by 1,116 supporters.

Tory group leader for Hyndburn Coun Tony Dobson said the county council were approaching the budget reductions the wrong way.

He said: “The extra charges for lending aren’t going to make a difference to the budget. They are not dealing with the issue.”

From January 1, 2016, anyone aged 18 or over who has borrowed a book and returns it late will have to pay a fine of 15 pence per day.

The maximum fine has been set at £6.

LCC said they were forced to bring in a raft of measures to tackle a funding gap of £262m they need to save by 2020.

County councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for cultural services, said: “Although charges are never popular, this change should encourage people to bring back their books, so that they can be enjoyed by other readers.”

Books can also be renewed up to ten times without charge, provided they have not been reserved elsewhere.

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