CASH-STRAPPED council chiefs are coining in a small fortune from library users who have failed to return their books on time.
The Paisley Daily Express can reveal that Renfrewshire Council has banked around £23,000 in overdue library charges in the space of one year.
And library bosses are also owed nearly £10,000 from selfish fine dodgers who have yet to pay.
Now the local authority – which is desperately trying to plug a £75million black hole in its budget – has vowed that dodgers who fail to pay their fines will be banned from using library services.
A council spokeswoman said: “Our charges for overdue library books are some of the lowest in Scotland to ensure that library users don’t incur large debts that would cause them hardship and discourage them from using the service.
“Library users with outstanding charges are encouraged to pay them promptly or by instalments but, ultimately, those who make no payments won’t be able to use the service again until their charges are paid.”
Renfrewshire Council runs 11 community libraries, two mobile libraries, a toy library and the Paisley Central reference library and lending library.
It raked in £23,000 in overdue library charges between April 2010 and March this year.
The maximum amount an adult can owe the council for an overdue library book is capped at £1.80 after six weeks. Concessions are charged a maximum of £1.02 and there are no fines applied to schoolchildren.
Overdue DVDs are charged at a weekly rate of £2.40.
The Express has learned there are several hundred library users in the Paisley area who have overdue books, CDs or DVDs lying around their home.
By making a request through the Freedom of Information Act, the Express discovered that the longest-standing fine owed to the council dates back to July 2008.
If library users do not pay the money they owe, their card is blocked until the debt is cleared.
Community activist David Mellor, who successfully campaigned against the planned closure of Lochwinnoch Library, has hit out at the fine dodgers.
He told the Express: “If people have long-standing fines, they should clear their debts or else libraries will suffer.
“If people have books lying around for a long time, they should do the decent thing and settle their account.
“I know I’ve lost books before and you just have to go to the library and pay up to continue using the service.
“We have encouraged residents here in Lochwinnoch to use our library and we encourage them to return books on time.”