LIBRARY users have paid out more than £500,000 in fines over the past six years for losing items and failing to return books on time, new figures show.

Essex County Council raked in £457,000 from people who use libraries in Basildon, Castle Point, and Rochford, while Thurrock’s total was £83,000.

Southend Council could not supply figures for its libraries.

Basildon libraries fined its users £253,000 between 2007 and 2013, Castle Point’s four libraries dished out £101,000 worth of fines and Rochford almost £106,000.

County Hall made the most cash from fines dished out at Billericay library – bringing in a total of £81,000 in the sixyear period.

However, the most money brought in in one year was at Rayleigh Library, where users were fined £12,866 in 2008/09 and £12,122 two years later.

People are fined for offences including late return fees, charges for lost items and charges for damaged items.

Despite the numbers, the trend is improving, particularly in Basildon where revenue from fines has dropped from £47,000 in 2007/08 to £30,000 in 2012/13.

The Echo approached Southend Council for the amount it had fined individuals, but the authority said the statistics were unavailable.

Essex County Council said cash brought in through fines is pumped back into the county’s libraries – paying for staff wages, purchasing stock and all the other costs of providing a public library service.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex Libraries offers members the option to renew items online, on the telephone or in person.

“The vast majority of library members return their loan items on time and because we have introduced different ways (such as online renewals), this can help customers avoid inadvertently building up fines.”

Meanwhile, some users have been banned from libraries for offences including inappropriate computer use. The statistics, covering the last six years, reveal more than 50 people were told to stay away from libraries.

Nineteen people were banned in Basildon libraries – for offences including rowdy behaviour, abusive behaviour, abusive and intimidating behaviour, verbal abuse, disruptive abuse, threatening behaviour, and inappropriate computer use.

Ten people were banned from Castle Point libraries, on Canvey, Great Tarpots, Hadleigh and South Benfleet, for the same reasons.

The bans stretched from three to six months, although two individuals were banned for longer than six months. Both Rochford and Rayleigh libraries banned ten individuals between 2009 and 2013 for offences including abusive and disruptive behaviour, abusive behaviour to other customers and vandalism.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “The ban from using the library service is a last resort, and is only used once all other means of addressing the issues concerned have