Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Libraries Charges Policy

Legislative Background

The Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 established the fundamental principle of a free library service and prohibits library authorities from charging for lending books or for use of the reference and information service.
Charges are allowed for notifying library users that reservations were ready for collection, loss and damage to library material and for the late return of borrowed items.

The Library Charges (England & Wales) Regulations 1991 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 permitted charging for the loan of material in alternative formats such as videos, DVDs and CDs, photocopying and on-line research services. While this legislation permits charging for Internet based services the Government has given strong encouragement and, through the National Lottery People's Network initiative, significant financial backing to public libraries to develop into UK Online Centres, and a very clear direction that services carry no charge.

Birmingham City Council's Corporate Charging Policy

In 2000 the City Council introduced a Corporate Charging Policy. This outlined the reasons why the Council charges for services. Fees and charges represent an important source of income, providing finance for activity that is designed to achieve the City Council's objectives. However the policy also recognised the potential conflicts between raising income by putting up charges and promoting access and usage of services, particularly by vulnerable groups on low incomes. The policy states that net income maximisation to the Council should be the ultimate aim of charging, and charging should cover the full cost of providing the service. Any deviations from this must be justified. Charges should rise by the cost of inflation each year and any exceptions to this must also be justified.
The policy includes the requirement for a corporate review of concessionary schemes every three years to consider their contribution to the Council's priorities

See Appendix for key points from the Corporate Charging Policy.

The following charging policy of Birmingham Libraries and Information Service is in accordance with the City Council's Corporate Charging Policy.

Charging Policy for Birmingham Libraries and Information

Service Fees and charges represent an important source of income, providing finance for activity that is designed to achieve the library service's objectives. Birmingham Libraries review their charges annually, paying due regard for inflation and compliance with the corporate charging policy.

Birmingham Libraries aim to provide, promote and encourage access to reading, information, lifelong learning, leisure and cultural activities for everyone, particularly those at risk of social exclusion. The charging policy reflects and supports this aim.

Principles for charging library fines, fees and charges
  • In line with legislation, there will be no charge for the basic book borrowing and information service.
  • Fines, fees and charges will be fair and reasonable
  • Fines, fees and charges will reflect the social inclusion policies of the City Council and Birmingham Libraries
  • The library service will use concessions and exemptions to provide equality of access to resources
  • Concessions and exemptions will apply to the person not to the material type
  • Charges will be simple to understand and administer
  • Methods of payment will be flexible and convenient and take into account those on low incomes
  • Service users should understand the charges and methods of payment before becoming liable
  • Charges will be reviewed at least annually paying due regard for inflation and compliance with the corporate charging policy.

The following fees and charges will be levied:

  • Overdue charges to encourage the return of library material
  • Charges to borrow non book material to offset additional costs of provision
  • Charges for borrowing items from other library authorities or the British Library
  • Charges for value added service to take account of additional costs to the library service
  • Charges for loss, damage and replacement of library materials
  • Charges for services and facilities that complement the main library service provision (including sale of items no longer required for stock)
  • Externally set charges

In setting charges, the Library Service will balance the need to raise income while not deterring library users from choosing to use additional services or to return their overdue items. The charges will cover the cost of notification where appropriate.
Reflecting Birmingham Libraries commitment equality of access and social inclusion, there are concessions and exemptions for children and young people, students, older people, people with disabilities and people in receipt of certain benefits. Not all categories of library user are entitled to all concessions and exemptions
Customers of the Mobile Library Service are not charged fines or fees because the presence of the service cannot be guaranteed and the shelf choice is extremely limited. Customers of Library Services at Home are not charged fines or fees because they are dependent on the library staff delivering the service and have no independent choice of material to borrow.
People in temporary addresses are regarded as liable for the full rate of all charges unless they fall into one of the other categories eligible for concessions or exemptions e.g. people on low income benefits or vouchers

A full list of charges is available on the library service web-site and at every service point. A display stand at every issue counter shows the most common fees and charges.

Payments may be made in full or by instalment and by cash or cheque. The Central Library also accepts credit cards.

Appendix

Key Points from the Corporate Charging Policy

  • Net income maximisation to the Council should be the ultimate aim of charging, and charging should cover the full cost of providing the service. Any deviations from this are to be justfied.
  • Advisory Teams must consider whether policy objectives suggest deviating from this and whether or not to subsidise charges. Where charges are subsidised the full cost of the subsidy must be made clear
  • Differential charging should be considered for income maximisation purposes or as a policy instrument
  • Charges should take account of competitors charges (for like-for-like services) however there should be caution in benchmarking charges against other local authorities as policy and quality issues may be different.
  • Income generated from charging should adequately reflect the value of capital invested in generating the income
  • Advisory Teams should consider ways of benefit take up to reduce subsidy.

Circumstances where it is acceptable to set charges below income maximisation levels are where:

  • The subsidy represents a conscious decision on the part of the Advisory Team service delivery policy, with identified budget provision e.g.
    • Use of the service by individuals benefits the whole community
    • A nominal charge is set to avoid frivolous demands for a service
    • Consideration has been given to ways of increasing service take-up to generate additional net income, through reducing rather than increasing charges
    • Charging full cost would have a detrimental effect on the Council as a whole
    • Illegal net financial gain
    • Income thresholds for charging users are set

Charges may be set above income maximisation levels where :

  • To discourage abuse of a service
  • Setting charges at a 'penal' level would satisfy other policy objectives e.g. to promote 'green' policies
  • Take up of an alternative service is being encouraged

Charges must be simple to understand and administer

Service users should understand the charges & methods of payment before becoming liable

Methods of payment should be flexible and convenient and take into account those on low incomes
Charges must be updated at least annually for inflation and must be reviewed against the corporate policy every three years

There will be a corporate review of concessionary schemes every three years to consider their contribution to the Council's priorities

Reviewing Charges

  • There must be clear aims & objectives. Legal issues must be identified
  • The impact of proposed charges must be identified
  • Reasons for non full cost recovery must be identified and quantified
  • Information on the reasons for freezing charges (ie no increase for inflation) must be given
  • Methods of collection must be stated
  • Impact on other service areas should be identified in terms of increased/reduced demand
  • Anticipated costs of any new or amended charges must be identified
  • Estimated net income must be identified
  • Comparative information should be provided
  • Alternatives to charging should be considered e.g. cost cutting
  • There must be consultation with existing & potential users

If you require this information in any other language or format emaillibraries@birmingham.gov.uk or contact yourlocal library




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