CHILDREN in Andover will soon have to pay overdue fines at the library again following a controversial decision by Hampshire County Council.

Earlier this month the culture, communities and rural affairs select committee considered various options in the light of budgetary challenges faced by the county’s libraries.

Now Cllr Keith Chapman, executive member for culture and recreation, has approved the plan – including the reintroduction of fines on overdue books on children aged six to 17.

A children’s rate of 5p per book – up to a maximum of 40p per book – will be introduced on or after 19 September, which the council says will generate an extra £20,000 a year.

A council report said: “Acknowledging that charging fines to children could be a potentially emotive topic, it was decided, following the January 2010 report, to consult the culture, communities and rural affairs select committee in the first instance about reintroducing fines on children’s overdue books.

“This was subsequently done as part of a library strategy presentation on 8 July 2010 and no objections in principle were raised about reinstating fines on children’s overdue books.”

Children’s fines were stopped in 2005 as part of a wider departmental initiative aimed at removing ‘perceived’ barriers to using libraries. But now the council says that the main aim is to ‘encourage customers to return children’s books on time, thus increasing the availability of the books to other customers’.

The council acknowledges that ability to pay might still be an issue with some families but adds that fines only have to be paid if a book is not returned by the due date.

It also points out that the loan period of four weeks is longer than at many authorities.

Other measures include the introduction of overdue charges on mobile libraries on the basis of a single overdue charge of 15p for adults and 5p for children.

And there will be an introduction of an annual CD membership charge of £15.