Is the £1 an hour computer charge making less people visit Cambridgeshire libraries?

March Library

March Library - Credit: Archant

A £1 an hour computer charge imposed in Cambridgeshire libraries in May last year may have led to less people visiting, a report claims.

Computer use is free for the first 30 minutes, free for young people up to the age of 18 and also for those on benefits

However, after that it costs a pound an hour.

Figures show the number of people visiting libraries since the charge was imposed is down by 11.3 per cent.

A finance and performance report to be discussed by county councillors shows that the number of visitors to libraries and community hubs in a three month period from July to September was around half a million.

There were more than one million visitors to county libraries from April 2018 to date.

“This is below the target for the second quarter and 11.3 per cent down on the same period in the last reporting year,” a report says.

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“We are seeing a slight dip in visitor figures and that may be in part due to the introduction of computer charges from May 1.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and actively promoting the first free half hour for all library users as well as the free computer use for all children and young people up to and including 16 year olds and people accessing government sites as well as those accessing universal credit.”

Charging to use computers in Cambridgeshire libraries after the first 30 minutes has seen a massive drop in the numbers using them instead of being a money spinner as was hoped.

Overall usage of computers is down 50 per cent but the numbers using them for longer has dropped by 75 per cent since the £1 an hour charge was introduced.

It has meant a dent in council finances too – the council predicted it would make £108,000 in the first year but in the first three months collected just £4,000.

The council originally projected that an additional £230,000 per year could be achieved from charges for computers, room and facility lettings and charges for events.

• Government websites, including those for Universal Credit applications and the county council website, remain free to access.