STUDENTS at the University of Chester could have filled their own library with the amount they shelled out in overdue book fines last year.

They paid out a whopping £31,551 over the 2016/17 academic year, according to details released under the Freedom of Information Act.

For the same sum they could have bought 3,509 Penguin Classic paperback books or 126,204 tins of value baked beans.

Students across sites in the city and Warrington have to pay 10p for every day a three-week loan book is overdue, 50p per day for weekly loaned books, and 50p a day for one-day loan books.

However, bosses at the university have stressed that fines have fallen year-on-year with £37,288 raked in for the 2015/16 academic year.

A spokesman said: “The use of fines is a common library practice to ensure that all users have equal access to texts and others are not disadvantaged.

“We focus on providing a library service that meets the needs of all our users across our nine learning resource sites equally and all money recovered from fines is used to reinvest in that service.

“The number of allowable renewals (the number of times in succession a user can borrow the same publication) was increased by 50 per cent last year, and we automatically send courtesy emails to our users two days before books are due as a reminder to renew. They have a number of options to manage their book allowance including our mobile app, telephone and online access to their library account.

“We have not increased our fines for a number of years, and routinely waive fines when users are prevented from returning books on time for valid reasons.

“As a result of all these measures, fines paid this year have fallen by 18 per cent.”

Last year the National Union of Students (NUS) hit out at universities that pocket cash from overdue library books.

A spokesman for the union said at the time: “Students are facing a cost of living crisis, course costs and accommodation costs have risen to unamenable levels.

“It is simply unacceptable that they are being punished further in this way and made to fund the books that they have already paid course costs to study.”

Some establishments have now scrapped library fines altogether. At the University of Sheffield a book is renewed automatically unless it has been reserved by someone else, in which case the current keeper cannot take any more books out until it is returned.