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Council scraps computer charges in Libraries

Posted on Tuesday 5 December 2017
Computer keyboard

Gateshead Council is scrapping the charge for using its public computers in libraries.

The charge, which is payable by anyone using a library computer to go online, is to be scrapped with immediate effect.

The decision was taken after it was realised that the charge was proving a barrier to people looking for jobs or making a benefit claim online.

Both the £1 per session and the £3.50 annual subscription have been scrapped, meaning all computers in Gateshead Council-run libraries and at Gateshead Civic Centre are now free to use, though a minority volunteer-run libraries may continue to charge.

Councillor Angela Douglas, Cabinet member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, says:

“In the current financial climate, it’s unusual for a council to be scrapping a charge, but this is important.

“More and more government business is done online these days, which means that anyone who has to carry out a job search as part of their unemployment claim, or anyone applying for universal credit or other benefits, has to do it online. Doing it face-to-face is no longer an option.

“Unfortunately, the government seems to assume that everyone has a computer or smart phone and we know this is not the case. Our library internet access therefore plays an absolutely crucial role in helping people to find a job or make benefit claims which they’d otherwise not be able to make.

“But charging people to use our computers means charging people who in many cases are already enduring significant financial hardship, and that’s clearly wrong. We are therefore delighted to bring down the barrier that this charge presents.

“Yes, it will mean a small loss of income to the council, but we want people in Gateshead to thrive and that means helping people to help themselves. This is one small but crucially important way in which we can give people who are genuinely struggling a helping hand.“

As of today, all computers in Gateshead Central Library, Birtley, Blaydon, Chopwell, Crawcrook, Leam Lane, Wrekenton and Pelaw libraries, and the public computers at Gateshead Civic Centre, will be free to use.

Free access will also be offered at volunteer-run libraries in Felling, Low Fell, Rowlands Gill, Ryton and Whickham.

People with laptops and smart phones already enjoy free Wi-Fi in Gateshead libraries, so scrapping the charge to use a library PC also makes it fairer on people who are not lucky enough own a laptop or smart phone.