Camden book fine dodgers could have bailed out a doomed library

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 May 2013 | UPDATED: 21:34 02 May 2013

Alan Templeton outside Swiss Cottage Library

Alan Templeton outside Swiss Cottage Library


Unpaid library fines have rocketed to more than £77,000 across Camden – just £10,000 short of what it costs to run one community library for a year.

A Freedom of Information request from the Ham&High found that overdue charges at all 10 Camden Council-run libraries have reached £77,114 in the last two years.

In comparison, the cost to community campaigners of running Keats Community Library in Hampstead for the year is £87,000, which includes a licence fee for renting the building from the City of London, new book purchases and some staffing costs.

Camden announced plans to close three of its libraries in 2011 following cuts to local authority budgets.

Three libraries – then called Heath Library, Belsize Library and Chalk Farm Library – were all handed over to voluntary groups to run in April 2012.

A breakdown of the overdue fines shows the highest overdue charges were at Swiss Cottage Library, where £18,955 is currently owed in unpaid fines.

The total number of overdue books at the top five issuing libraries between July 2011 and March 2013 was 4,484.

Chairman of Camden Public Library User Group, Alan Templeton, said: “That money could keep a library open.

“The council has just closed Regent’s Park Library but that money could have kept it open for another year or maybe longer.

“Fines are a significant part of the income of the library service. For fines not to be collected is really a failure of management.”

He said library users should be stopped from borrowing books if they fail to pay their fines.

“If the council is so short of money and closing libraries, it can’t be lax in any areas,” he added.

“There should be a tight financial regime. We are in a time of austerity and that applies to the library service.”

Highgate Library, in Chester Road, which was on the brink of closure, was thrown a lifeline last November when it was given a two-year reprieve by Camden Council.

The Friends of Highgate Library said it would give them enough time to come up with a solution to keep the site sustainable in the long-term.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “We have 75,000 people borrowing and the amount owed through charges, of £77,114, averages out at about one pound per customer.

“We offer a wide programme of activities for the community at our libraries, and usage remains high.

‘‘Additionally, the council has supported the new community libraries with £342,000 funding to get them started.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

I live in the north west of London in the United Kingdom. Like the rest of the country, I have been looking on in bewilderment at the Brexit deal while politicians on both sides of the house vie for political supremacy. Divisions in government make for good news headlines but do nothing for the public’s confidence in its institutions.

Fri, 16:24

Normally we celebrate one business of the week – but today we’ve got three!

Fri, 15:17

A Routemaster bus will take 72 passengers on a journey through Greek Cypriot history, via Camden and Holloway, on Sunday.

Fri, 12:12

The latest twist in the saga of a Hampstead landlord who refuses to pay a controversial levy saw him bring a top barrister to his court hearing.

Fri, 09:48

Opponents of the 100 Avenue Road development suffered a major blow last night as Camden voted through a controversial plan that will funnel seven lorries a day through residential streets in Swiss Cottage.

Thu, 17:35

The families left homeless by the fire that destroyed the upper floors of Willow House in East Finchley last week said Barnet Council treated them “like ants to be squashed” in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Thu, 12:44

The Temple Fortune community was celebrating on Tuesday after Barnet’s Finchley and Golders Green planning committee unanimously rejected plans to build housing on the old Templars Tennis Club.

Thu, 12:10

Tens of thousands of pounds, weapons and drugs were seized after searching a garage in the Peckwater Estate on Tuesday morning.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now