THE Mayor of Worcester has criticised a county council policy to charge charities for the use of library space – calling it "deplorable".

Cllr Paul Denham has hit out after Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre (WHABAC) were told they would have to pay to hold a free advice stall in St John's Library.

While floor space was previously offered for free, Worcestershire County Council now charges charities £4 per hour after a policy change in April 2015.

Steve Hemming, a money manager at the charity, said he learnt about the charge in an email from the library manager shortly before the CAB was due to hold an energy advice stand at the library for two days last week.

"At the end of the day we were committed to the event as we had advertised it," he said. "We were surprised, we assumed it would be free. We are offering free advice to people.

"The email said this may be a charge that has taken effect since you last held an event at the library."

Worcestershire County Council says all community groups, including charities, are now charged to hire library space.

Cllr Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "We have been doing this since 2015.

"We charge all community groups an amount, across the county, and that includes charities."

Charities are charged £4 an hour to hire library space, compared with £8.25 an hour for profit making groups, although the rates are higher at the Hive, in the city centre.

But Cllr Denham, who sits on both the county and city councils, said: "I think it's deplorable. It's absolutely wrong. They weren't raising money, just offering advice.

"I always thought the purpose of libraries was to give information and advice to people."

He is planning to raise the issue of charities in libraries at a county council meeting today (Thursday).

A county council spokesman said the income generated helps libraries to deliver savings targets.

"Similar events held in other libraries around energy saving have been charged on the same basis, along with other initiatives hosted in libraries by charities and advice groups," they added.