THE COUNTY’S libraries are owed over half a million pounds in unpaid fines.

Official figures show a grand total of £569,610.54 is due across Essex in late return fees.

Among the 75 libraries named are Harwich and Manningtree who are owed a collective £13,467.

Colchester has the largest amount of fines due, totalling £83,221.97 - the equivalent of one book being 1600 years overdue.

Libraries charge 10 pence per day for overdue books in the first week, and £1 per week thereafter, with a maximum fine of £4.70 per item.

Other items for loan, such as CDs and DVDs, incur higher charges.

The figures were provided by Essex County Council and represent the amount owed if all overdue items were returned on March 31.

The numbers also reveal that libraries recieved £306,028 in settled fines over the 2009/10 financial year, but £196,397 is still owed on books that have been returned.

Essex County Councillor Jeremy Lucas, Cabinet Member for libraries said: “The majority of library charges are paid when they are incurred or soon after, but unfortunately there are some which do remain outstanding for longer.

“The majority of these are for small amounts, but we do not allow residents who have outstanding fines to use our library service again until they are paid.

“We are currently reviewing the best way of dealing with the minority of residents who owe larger amounts in unpaid library fines. I would urge all residents to return items they have borrowed from our libraries on time, to avoid incurring fines and allowing us to continue providing first class library services for all.”