Conservative Councillors would rather library computers go unused than change their failing charging policy.
At a committee meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council on Tuesday (11 September), the policy of charging residents to use library computers was shown to be driving people away from using the computers, and raising little money in the process.
Conservative councillors had pushed through the charging policy earlier this year, claiming it would raise £108,000 a year for local libraries. Liberal Democrat councillors opposed the new charge at the time. Now it has been revealed that only £4,000 has been taken in charges in the first three months. Council officers are therefore projecting only £16,000 a year in income—a £92,000 shortfall.
To make matters worse, the new charges have reduced computer use in libraries by over 50 per cent.
Lib Dem councillors attempted to get the charging policy dropped, but the Conservatives stubbornly stuck to their policy, promising only to receive a further report in six months' time. Cllr Lorna Dupré (Lib Dem, Sutton), who proposed to the meeting that the charge be dropped immediately, said:
"This charge is seriously putting residents off from using computers in libraries, while raising only a small fraction of the cash the Conservatives said it would. It's extremely disappointing that all the Conservative councillors present voted to continue with the charge. I struggle to see what will be different in six months' time."