COUNCIL bosses in Darlington have raised thousands of pounds by charging the public for internet access, it has been revealed.

Darlington Borough Council-run libraries charge users for internet access after the first 30 minutes of use.

Once people reach that limit, they have to pay either 50p for another 15 minutes of use or £1 for half an hour.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the council raises an average of £8,000 a year from charging library internet users.

A total of £8,714 was raised in 2007-08, rising to a high of more than £10,200 in 2008-09.

Since then, the amounts raised have dropped, with £6,523 collected in 2011-12.

A council spokeswoman said: “Other library services in the Tees Valley make a charge for this service and it helps manage access with the limited number of machines we have available.

“Our e-library service is very popular and well used by local people.

“Not every home in the borough has a computer or access to the internet, so we are pleased to be able to offer people the chance to use the internet in our town centre and Cockerton libraries, as well as some of our mobile library stops.”

Some library users say they cannot afford to pay for internet use.

One regular user of the service, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I was surprised to find that I had to pay for the internet because I’ve lived in places where you don’t have to pay at all.

“It’s a bother, as I have to watch how long I use it for. I can’t afford to be spending £1 every time.”