LIBRARY fines are set to be scrapped across Blackburn with Darwen, it has been announced.

And an amnesty has been ordered for outstanding charges by the borough’s leisure and culture boss, Cllr Damian Talbot.

Councillors have been told that the projected fines income for 2019-20, based on current usage, is £7,750.

This annual rate is said to have dipped by 25 per cent from 2016-17 - and is expected to decrease further in future.

Cllr Talbot said: “There is some evidence to say that having outstanding library fines or overdue books is an obstacle which makes people fearful of going into our libraries.

“We want to encourage people to use our libraries and have shown a massive commitment, over the past 10 years, by keeping our branch libraries open through our support for volunteers.

“The income we receive from fines is going down year on year on year and I challenged our officers, and gave a lot of thought about how we ensure books are still returned.

“There would still be measure to prevent readers from being issued any more books if they still have items outstanding.”

Cllr Talbot has also endorsed a proposed amnesty for historic fines, to achieve similar aims.

He added: “There will be no questions asked and it would be an end to the mattter - we just want people to use our libraries.”

Several other north-west councils, including Blackpool, Halton, Leeds, Oldham and Salford, have already opted to scrap fines.

Some town halls have reported that introducing such a policy has had an effect on the numbers of long-term missing books.

New measures to encourage readers to return books on time, including e-mail reminders, have been trialled in Blackburn with Darwen, and the ability to renew items online has been available for some time.

In a report to councillors Dominic Harrison, the borough’s director of public health and wellbeing, added: “Our libraries are important.

“Beyond the simple issuing of books they provide access to a comprehensive range of services which connect people with communities, information and digital communication. Their use should be encouraged.

“Even small fines can deter the return of items and the perceived stigma they bring can deter people from using library services.”

The council has confirmed that they will still seek to recoup costs for lost, damaged and non-returned books.

Several borrower categories, like the under-15s and the blind and partially sighted, are exempt from fines and concessions are in place for the over-65s.