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Libraries in Essex to use debt collectors to recover fines

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: January 04, 2012

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DEBT collectors will soon be used by libraries across the borough to crack down on people who fail to pay their late fees.

Customers who don't return their books on time could soon find themselves targeted by a US firm which specialises in recovering library fines.

The company, Unique Management Services (UMS), will this year be employed on a three-month trial period by the county council, which runs libraries in Essex.

A start date for the trial has yet to be fixed and the county council refused to reveal how much it would be paying UMS on the grounds that it is "commercially sensitive" information.

In 2010/11, more than £648,000 in late fees was retrieved from users of Essex's 73 libraries – including about £20,000 from Brentwood Library in New Road.

The Gazette asked the county council under the Freedom of Information Act how many fines remained unpaid, but the authority said it did not hold that information.

The amount is, however, likely to be in the region of tens of thousands of pounds, if the figure of more than £100,000 owed to Kent County Council is used as a guide.

Library users gave the move a cautious welcome, but said they would like to know more about how the firm would operate.

One user, Brentwood-based author Frances Clamp, described the news as "quite extraordinary".

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  • BKaleda  |  January 04 2012, 3:46PM

    This is completely mad. With people struggling to pay council tax; workers being made redundant; and the harshest economic times since the Second World War, the notion of libraries sending out baillifs to chase 10p fines is lunacy. Besides, most libraries are having their meagre budgets cut back and many, like the joke of a library in Brentwood, has little, if any decent stock, workers who don't know the back end of a book from their own! and a so-called "library" that's little more than a Blairite community centre, with screaming kids, delinquent mothers and yobs eating burgers and drinking coke; all to the detriment of the true library users, who wish to read quietly, study and contemplate. Whatever fruitcake officer at County Hall coined this latest madcap 'initiative', should be sacked.

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