SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING)
Minutes of a meeting held on 7th December, 2015.
Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor R.A. Penrose (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. R. Birch, Mrs. C.L. Curtis, C.P. Franks, T.H. Jarvie and A. Parker.
Co-Opted Members: Mr. P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church); Father E. Counsell (Church in Wales) and Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor - Secondary Sector).
Non-Voting Observers: Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector).
Also present: Councillor C.P.J. Elmore and Councillor N. Moore.
648 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillors Ms. K.E. Edmunds and Mrs. A.J. Preston; Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor - Primary Sector) and Mr. D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education).
649 MINUTES –
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th November, 2015 be approved as a correct record.
650 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
651 INITIAL REVENUE BUDGET PROPOSALS 2016/17 (DLS) –
The initial revenue budget proposals were presented to the Scrutiny Committee for consultation with the request that any recommendations be referred to the lead Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) by no later than 15th December, 2015.
The projected outturn for the Learning and Skills Directorate was for an adverse variance of £292k when compared to the Amended Budget with the following highlighted variances were reported to Committee for each service area:
School Improvement and Inclusion – This service was projecting an adverse variance of around £706k, but the amount would be offset by £65k funded from the Excluded Pupils reserve. An adverse variance on alternative curriculum placements of £65k was also projected due to increased demand for the service and again this was proposed to be funded from the Excluded Pupils reserve. An adverse variance of £457k was anticipated on inter Authority recoupment income. Increased demand for Vale pupils requiring placements in Ysgol Y Deri had resulted in fewer placements being available for other Authorities to purchase. An adverse variance of £197k was projected on pupil placements in independent schools and other Authorities due to an increase in the number of pupils with significant needs that were unable to be met at Ysgol Y Deri. These overspends would be offset by a favourable variance of £13k on staffing costs due to part year vacancies within teams. Committee was advised that the Directorate was seeking further ways to mitigate this overspend as part of the longer term Reshaping Services agenda. .Following a request at the October meeting of the Committee further details on Special Educational Needs (SEN) placements had been attached to the report as supplementary information for Members’ consideration.
With regard to Strategy and Resources, this service was anticipating a favourable variance at year end of £326k. There were also favourable variances on the transport budget of £196k, £52k on salaries due to part year vacancies, £49k due to payments to private nurseries as a result of a reduction in non-maintained nursery settings and £29k on other supplies and services. However, the report referred to the significant pressures in relation to the Schools Long Term Supply scheme with an adverse variance of £270k anticipated and the Early Retirement and Voluntary Redundancy scheme also projecting an adverse variance of £196k. Both these overspends would be funded from the respective reserves. It was anticipated that there would also be transfers from the Rationalisation Reserve of £161k to fund the increased rates bill at St. Cyres Comprehensive School and £115k to fund one off amalgamation costs at Llantwit Learning Community and Penarth Learning Community.
For Service Strategy and Regulation it was anticipated that this service would outturn with a £7k favourable variance due to efficiencies within the Business Support section. The delegated budget relating to schools was also expected to balance as any under / over spend was carried forward by schools and the Children and Young People’s Partnership service was anticipated to outturn with a favourable variance of £16k due to a part year vacancy in the team.
Provision had been made within the budget to make unsupported borrowing debt repayments in relation to the Schools Investment Strategy of £698k per annum. Any favourable variance on debt repayments would be directed into the Schools Investment Strategy reserve.
In referring to the Libraries Service, Committee was informed that this was projecting to outturn at budget after a transfer from the Libraries reserve of £113k to fund one off costs in relation to the implementation of the Libraries Review. For Adult Community Learning it was anticipated that the service would outturn at budget after a £93k transfer from the Adult and Community Learning reserve. The transfer from the reserve being required due to redundancy and notice payments to staff, which had arisen as a result of reductions in funding from Welsh Government and Cardiff and the Vale College. For the Youth Service, it was anticipated the service area would outturn at budget after a transfer of £40k from the Youth Service Reserve. The transfer from the reserve being required to fund ongoing NEETS and Gateway To Engagement work in schools and the Catering budget was also anticipated to outturn at budget after a transfer of £222k from Catering reserves. The transfer from reserves would fund the final payment of the cashless catering system and the conversion of dining centres into kitchens in four primary schools.
Attached at Appendix 2 to the report was a statement showing the progress made against the savings targets for 2015/16. The Council had however, not yet received the provisional settlement from Welsh Government (WG) which would not be published until 9th December, 2015 but the Council could not wait until this date to commence its budget preparation for 2016/17 and the report had therefore been based on the projections previously used as part of the Medium Term Financial Plan 2014/15 to 2017/18.
Committee was further advised that if all identified cost pressures were funded this would increase the shortfall for the Council to £18.601m although if the proposed savings were achieved the shortfall would be reduced to £6.431m. However, this shortfall was based on the requirement to achieve a high level of savings in 2016/17 and there was still uncertainty about the continuation of the MFC for schools beyond that date. Further work was be undertaken by the Budget Working Group to achieve a balanced budget at the final budget proposals for 2016/17 although, there would be difficulties in maintaining quality and quantity of services in the future without exploring opportunities for collaboration and alternative forms of service delivery. To this end, it was however noted that the Council had already commenced a programme of reshaping and transforming services which had been approved by Cabinet on 11th August, 2014.
A Member, in referring to the adverse variance of £457,000 anticipated in inter-Authority recoupment relating to Ysgol Y Deri, enquired as to why there were increased demands for Vale pupils requiring placements at the school. In response, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion referred to the general increase in SEN pupils, particularly who suffered from ASD, an increase that had not been foreseen. He also, since taking up the role, made an observation that within mainstream schools in the Vale of Glamorgan, the provision in relation to SEN pupils was either good provision or no provision. He also alluded to the fact that there were no special units within secondary schools within the county. Whilst there had been an increase in diagnosis of children with ASD, schools were more prepared and enabled to educate pupils with SEN within secondary mainstream education. Given the demands and pressures facing schools, the additional scrutiny that secondary schools were subject to and taking account of budget surpluses in previous years, the Member proposed that the Cabinet should be requested to give consideration to making available additional revenue funding in the amount of £4m specifically for secondary schools within the Vale of Glamorgan and to increase the Education Revenue Base Budget by this amount in future financial years.
In response to the proposal, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools reminded the Committee that within the report under consideration were a number of initiatives to support additional investment as part of the School Investment Strategy of the Council. In addition, the Leader of the Council was also in attendance and as the Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, also highlighted the fact that the Council had committed to spend up to the IBA for Education and its current spend was currently above this level. He also indicated that the current Medium Term Financial Plan strategy worked on the assumption that current Council Tax collection rate income would remain at 98%. However, there was no guarantee in the future that this would be maintained and therefore, no guarantee could be given to increase the base budget for Education in future years as there would be implications for other Council services. He also went on to confirm current General Fund balances and contested the amount of surpluses the Member had quoted as the basis of his proposed recommendation.
The Principal Accountant for Resource Management clarified the position in regard to the Council’s reserves and indicated that £40m was either committed or earmarked to capital schemes and, in the main, linked to the Council’s current School Investment Strategy.
The Chairman, in referring to the Minimum Funding Commitment (MFC) for Schools enquired what the cash equivalent amount was for the Council on the basis of it being equivalent to 1% above the WG’s block funding settlement. In response, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools indicated that the cash equivalent was approximately £500,000.
Having considered the report, the Scrutiny Committee
(1) T H A T the amended revenue budget for 2015/16 be noted.
(2) T H A T the Cabinet be requested to give consideration to making available an additional £4m revenue funding specifically for secondary sector schools in the Vale of Glamorgan and to increase the Education Revenue Base budged by this amount in future financial years.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To advise the Committee of amendments to the 2015/16 budget.
(2) In acknowledgement that secondary schools were under severe pressure and scrutiny and had the responsibility for academic achievement.
652 INITIAL CAPITAL PROGRAMME PROPOSALS 2016/17 (DLS) –
Appendix A to the report detailed the financial progress on the Capital Programme as at 30th September, 2014 with reference being made to the following schemes.
Colcot Primary Roof – The roof was in need of replacement as the underlying single ply roof was breaking down and causing ongoing leaks. It had therefore been requested that £100k of the 2016/17 Schools Asset Renewal budget be brought forward into 2015/16 to enable the urgent works to the roof to commence in the current financial year.
Modular Building Resiting Ysgol Dewi Sant – Under this existing scheme the former Ysgol Dewi Sant modular building was being recited at Fairfield Primary and a highways planning condition at Fairfield Primary had to be met before the building could be occupied. It had been requested that £200k of the 2016/17 Schools Asset Renewal budget be brought forward into 2015/16 in order for the works to be carried out in the current financial year.
Barry Comprehensive School, Cabinet on 5th October, 2015 (minute C2931) had resolved “THAT the development of a programme of work for Barry Comprehensive School be authorised to enable improvements to be made to the learning environment in the short term and that a further report on the proposed programme and estimated funding requirements be presented to Cabinet for further consideration in due course”. Whilst a programme of works was still being compiled, it had been requested that up to £1m be made available for these works to be carried out to be funded by a contribution from revenue into the School Investment Strategy reserve, as a result of a revenue underspend in 2015/16. Members were advised that further details of the specific requirements were to be presented to a future Cabinet.
St. Cyres Lower School Marketing and Disposal – A budget of £85k was required for marketing agent's fees and Project Management Unit Fees for the above scheme. It had been requested that the Capital Programme be increased by £20k in 2015/16 and £65k in 2016/17 to be funded from capital receipts.
Education Asset Renewal Contingency Budget delegated authority had been approved by Cabinet to make additions, deletions or transfers to or from the 2015/16 to 2019/20 Asset Renewal budget as appropriate”. This Delegated Authority had been used to allocate £41,900 of the contingency budget to the schemes below: -
Romilly Primary School £25,500
Urgent Health and Safety Works £16,400.
In order to complete the Urgent Health and Safety Works at various schools, it had been requested that the Urgent Health and Safety Works budget be increased by £4,917, to be funded from a revenue contribution from the Schools budget.
Any new capital bids had been invited for return by 30th September, 2015 with the number of bids being received being low i.e. 3 from Learning and Skills, 12 from Social Services, 11 from Environmental and Housing and 2 from the Managing Director and Resources Department. Departments had been requested to rank their own bids in order of importance before submission with the bids from each department then being forwarded to the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) for evaluation. The CAMG used the criteria set out in the Budget Strategy so the bids were prioritised in terms of their corporate priority and the risk they posed to the Council if they were not pursued. Only the schemes assessed as corporate priority 1 or higher and medium risk or higher were included in the proposals. The bids that did not meet this criteria or were excluded from consideration because funding had already been allocated were set out in Appendix C with the reason for their exclusion.
With regard Llantwit Learning Community, an additional £650k was required with the increased costs being reported as due to construction inflation, a greater understanding of the works required for parking and the bus turning circle and works required to the drainage, which were identified in a survey.
For Rhoose Primary New School £500k had been ring-fenced for the scheme within the School Investment Strategy Reserve and it was proposed that the Capital programme be increased by £500k in 2017/18 to include this allocation.
With regard to the Education Capital Loans scheme, which were internal loans which were initially funded from the School Rationalisation Reserve and Schools Unmade Repayments back into the Reserve over a number of years, in order to maintain a healthy balance it was proposed that the current yearly allocation of £300k be reduced to £200k between 2016/17 and 2020/21.
In referring to the School Investment Programme, Members were informed that the Band A programme was progressing well, it being noted that Phase 1 of the Penarth Learning Community Scheme was complete and the Learning Community was occupied. Works were ongoing for Phase 2 which consisted of external works and demolition. Members were further advised that Ysgol Nant Talwg and Ysgol Dewi Sant were complete and the schools were occupied. Phase 1 of Ysgol Gwaun Y Nant was complete and Phase 2 works were ongoing. The building works at Oakfield were complete and both schools were occupied and the Llantwit Learning Community Centre was underway with works having started on site in August 2015.
Paragraph 32 of the report showed the planned spend on the Education Capital Programme from 2016/17 to 2020/21.
Committee was again requested to consider the report and to make any recommendations to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) no later than 15th December, 2015.
The Chairman, in referring to the funding amount of £750,000 for the financial year 2016/17 linked to Barry Secondary School Transformation arrangements and enquired as to how this funding would be used, taking account of the consultation outcome on the Council’s recent transformational school proposals. The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools intimated that this funding was initially intended to be used to undertake a programme of works to enable functionality of buildings for co-education provision within the existing buildings e.g. conversion of toilets for both sexes.
Another Member of the Committee referred to the proposed funding set aside for the marketing of the former St. Cyres and suggested that the budget set aside for this purpose was excessive. In responding to this query, the Principal Accountant for Resource Management provided a breakdown of expenditure on the following basis:
Marketing - £30,000 (maximum fee)
Project management - £40,000
Contingency - £15,000.
The Committee took the general view that when negotiations were taking place regarding marketing that care needed to be taken when negotiating fees.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the changes to the 2015/16 Capital Programme be noted.
(2) T H A T the Initial Capital Budget proposals for 2016/17 be noted.
(3) T H A T the use of delegated powers to reallocate £41,900 of the Education Asset Renewal Contingency budget for the schemes set out in paragraph 7 of the report be endorsed.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To ensure that Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2015/16 Capital Programme relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.
(2) In acknowledgement of the Consultation in regard to the draft budget proposals for 2016/17.
(3) In acknowledgement of the use of the budget to fund work in relation to Romilly Primary School and urgent health and safety works.
653 QUARTER 2 LEARNING AND SKILLS PERFORMANCE REPORT 2015/16 (DLS) –
In introduction to the report, the Director of Learning and Skills advised that Estyn inspectors had carried out a monitoring visit during the week beginning 16th November to review progress to implement the recommendations of the inspection of education services for children and young people carried out in May 2013. The provisional feedback at the end of the visit had been very encouraging indicating that, subject to moderation, the Authority would no longer require Estyn monitoring. It was anticipated that the Link Inspector would attend a future meeting of the Committee to provide more detailed feedback.
On behalf of the Committee the Chairman expressed his gratitude and thanked officers and the Cabinet Member for their efforts.
The Director indicated that overall, the Directorate was on track to achieving the objectives contributing to its service outcomes, with 94% of actions currently either completed or on track during the quarter 1st April to 30th September 2015/16. Of the 35 Actions, 4 had been completed, 29 were on track and 2 had slipped this quarter. 82% of Corporate Plan actions were completed or on track for completion (of the 11 Corporate Plan actions, 1 had been completed, 8 were on track and 2 had slipped this quarter). Of the 2 actions relating to the Improvement Objectives both were on track for completion. There were 3 Outcome Agreement actions relative to the Directorate, all of which were reported as currently on track for completion.
Against Outcome 1, “Learners achieve their full potential in order to maximise their life opportunities”, the Directorate had successfully utilised statutory intervention powers in order to effect change in schools when required in order to ensure accelerated improvement. The Director of Learning and Skills had issued two warning notices and had extended the use of intervention powers in a secondary school, appointing additional governors. Attendance in Vale of Glamorgan secondary schools had been ranked first in Wales, which was a further improvement on last year’s performance.
Targets for improvement in learner completion, attainment and success rates across the Cardiff and Vale Community Learning Partnership were set in excess of the national comparator by 15%. Provisional data suggested a success rate of 89%; this was a 2% increase on 2014 and 3% above the Welsh National average.
Moves to improve the standards of teaching, including the use of social media within the Cardiff and Vale Learning Partnership had been successful. A recent cycle of classroom observations gave a profile of 3 Excellent, 18 Good and 3 Adequate.
A marketing strategy for Library services, giving a particular focus to online resources had been successfully developed. The Marketing Group and the Digital Development Officer for libraries had worked together to promote online resources and services at outreach events. In addition, preparations had been made for libraries to contribute to the Get Online Week and the #LoveDigital Libraries Festival in the autumn.
Slippage was reported against two actions under Outcome 1. In relation to “undertaking initial skills assessments / diagnostics with learners enrolling onto courses over 10 hours”; Welsh Government had delayed implementation of the Initial Essential Skills Assessments [LS/A150 (CP/LS9)]. This delay had also been the cause of slippage against (LS/A151), the tracking, monitoring and recording of outcomes for adult learners using Initial Assessment Data as baseline.
Of the 21 performance indicators, 11 had met or exceeded target, 1 was within 10% of target and 9 had missed target by more than 10%. There were also 5 Outcome Agreement and Improvement Objective measures for the Directorate. Of the 5 Improvement Objective measures, 2 had exceeded target and 3 had missed target by more than 10% this quarter. Of the 5 Outcome Agreement measures, 2 had exceeded target and 3 had missed target by more than 10% this quarter.
Paragraph 12 referred to the nine indicators that had missed their target for the reasons as detailed in the report.
Having considered the report it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the service performance results and remedial actions to be taken to address service underperformance be noted.
(2) T H A T the progress to date in achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2015-16 be noted.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) In order to ensure that the Council was effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.
(2) Having considered the Quarter 2 Learning and Skills performance results as at 30th September 2015 in order to identify service areas for improvement work.
654 SCHOOL ATTENDANCE (DLS) –
The Head of School Improvement and Inclusion apprised the Committee on performance information in relation to school attendance and the impact of the revised Attendance Policy and Code of Conduct for Fixed Penalty Notices for Non-Attendance at School.
Since September 2013, schools in the Vale had adopted the Callio model to ensure there was a whole school and Vale Local Authority (LA) approach to improving attendance. Callio supported schools in managing pupils with attendance above 92%.
Secondary schools had accessed additional funding to improve the engagement of pupils with attendance between 80% and 92% including pupils in Year 6 in their feeder schools. This funding was used to provide additional administrative support to monitor attendance more closely and follow the Callio approach in five schools: Barry Comprehensive; Bryn Hafren; St. Cyres, St. Richard Gwyn and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. Funding was also used to provide additional pastoral support in six schools: Bryn Hafren; Cowbridge; Llantwit; St. Cyres; Stanwell and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. Practice had been affected by the Callio model and the need for good attendance had been highlighted to pupils and parents. Targeted secondary schools had reacted positively to support and challenge meetings from School Improvement and Inclusion Service (SIIS) staff and this had led to improved communication between schools and the centralised Education Welfare Service (EWS). The introduction of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) had offered schools a further option when considering how to improve pupils’ attendance. Schools had identified processes and procedures in managing attendance that had impacted positively and were sustainable once funding ceases. The SII Service would continue to work with colleagues in the CSC to ensure that good practice and resources were shared and made available to our schools.
Of note was the fact that Vale secondary school attendance had improved over the last four years and that there had been a further increase of 0.5% in attendance in the last year that had resulted in the Vale being ranked first in Wales. However, unverified primary attendance data showed that 31 schools improved attendance between 2013/14 and 2014/15, 15 schools' attendance decreased and two schools remained the same which was detailed within the report at paragraph 13.
Following the centralisation of the EWS in January 2014 this had enabled the Education Welfare Officers to increase their focus on pupils with attendance below 80% to reduce the number of persistent absentees.
During 2014/15 the EWS also undertook Register Audits in all maintained secondary schools and Y Daith Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and since September 2015 the EWS had also undertaken a further three Register Audits in Llansannor, Gladstone and Iolo Morganwg. Should concerns remain following the review of the Attendance Audit, the Senior Education Welfare Officer would work with the headteacher to draw up an Action Plan to improve attendance and would be reviewed after six months.
The 2014/15 secondary benchmark positions for secondary schools placed six of the Vale secondary schools in the upper categories. Five schools were in the top benchmark group: Barry Comprehensive; Cowbridge; Llantwit Major; St. Cyres and Stanwell. St. Richard Gwyn was placed in the second group. In the lower categories were Ysgol Bro Morgannwg in group 3 and Bryn Hafren in group 4. Barry Comprehensive had improved the most, moving from the lowest to the highest group. Bryn Hafren remained in the lowest group for the second year.
During 2014/15, the SIIS undertook support and challenge meetings in Barry Comprehensive, Bryn Hafren and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. This ensured that systems were in place in the school to routinely monitor attendance, follow Callio procedures and ensure pupils and families were referred appropriately to the EWS or other support agencies. Bryn Hafren's attendance remained a concern so during the summer term 2015, the SIIS worked with Bryn Hafren staff on a project to improve school attendance. This included allocating additional EWO time. This project was due to be reviewed in December 2015. Early indicators showed that Bryn Hafren's attendance was improving. The report also went on to refer to schools that would need to improve performance and noted that in order to increase primary attendance the EWS would focus on schools in the lowest benchmarking group.
The revised Attendance Policy emphasised the importance of the decision of the headteacher to withhold authorisation for absence until they had clarified circumstances to their satisfaction: holidays in term time were not normally to be authorised. The withholding of authorisation was critical in determining the Local Authority's approach to a pupil's attendance. If the headteacher approved the absence, the EWS could not prosecute the parents. Levels of unauthorised absence increased in both sectors by 0.2% in 2014/15 when compared with the previous year to 1.2% in secondary and 0.9% in primary schools. In 2013/14, the EWS successfully prosecuted 32 parents. By 2014/15, this had increased to 52 prosecutions.
In terms of FPNs, since September 2015 out of 18 requests received 12 FPNs had been issued. This was significantly higher than the previous academic year when no FPNs had been issued out of 20 requests received. It was considered that FPNs were one of a number of tools available to schools but, importantly, avoided formal court proceedings being brought against parents.
Following a question from a Member of the Committee relating to the impact on parents’ attitudes as a result of issuing FPNs, the Head of School Improvement and Inclusion indicated that it was too early to confirm any direct link between changing attitudes and FPNs.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
RECOMMENDED – T H A T the performance in school attendance to July 2015 be noted.
Reason for recommendation
To apprise Members of school attendance to date and to keep school attendance under close review and continue to inform future policy and practice.
655 WELSH PUBLIC LIBRARY STANDARDS ASSESSMENT 2014-2015 (DLS) –
The Scrutiny Committee was requested to endorse the Annual Report for 2014-15 that had been submitted to Welsh Government (WG) and consider the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance for 2014-15 which had been received from WG with any comments to be referred to Cabinet .
In presenting the report the Lead Officer for Youth and Community Learning stated that the Standards served to some extent as an interpretation of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the means by which WG could assess how Local Authorities were complying with their duties under the 1965 Act. The aim was to provide information on the performance of public library services across Wales, improve the consistency of services, drive improvements in services and to identify any underlying factors affecting performance.
The Welsh Public Library Standards were reviewed and updated by the WG on a three year cycle and the Annual Return submitted for 2014-15 was the first report of the Fifth Framework which operated from April 2014 to March 2017. The Standards for the Fifth Framework were made up of 18 core entitlements and 16 quality indicators grouped around four core service themes, being customer and communities, access for all, learning for life, and leadership and development.
The Library Standards Report for 2014-15 was attached as Appendices 1 and 2 to the report, with the report having been submitted to WG in July of each year.
The annual Assessment Report from WG on the Library Service’s performance for 2014-15 was to be found at Appendix 3 to the report. The Assessment Report stated that the Vale of Glamorgan Library and Information Service met 17 of the 18 core entitlements in full and one in part. It also met all seven of the quality indicators which have actual targets, the only Authority in Wales to do so during the first year of the Framework. The relevant indicators with targets were set out on page 2 of Appendix 2 and included the Standards related to acquisition, provision and appropriateness of materials, also the Standards for online services, location of libraries, opening hours, staffing and individual development. The Standard for individual development related to ICT support, learning opportunities and activities provided to library users.
The annual Assessment Report for the first time provided a rank position for the Vale against other library authorities in Wales in relation to some of the quality performance indicators. The Vale ranked first in terms of total expenditure per capita, fourth on cost per visit and fifth on capital expenditure per capita (based on the refurbishment costs at Llantwit Major Library). Many of these costs were related to overheads at Barry library and had since been addressed as part of the library strategy. The data in relation to costs was expected to change for 2015-16. The Vale had positive rank positions in relation to customers, including total visits per capita (fourth busiest in Wales), active borrowers per capita (sixth) and virtual visits to the library website and online services (eighth). The Vale also had the seventh highest number of active volunteers and the ninth highest number of volunteer hours recorded. These consisted of the volunteer hours spent supporting the home borrower service, the mobile pop-up service and a digitisation project.
Though the annual Assessment Report on the Vale of Glamorgan Library Service was generally positive, some comments had been made which Members were informed would be addressed in 2015-16. It was noted that the Library Service had not carried out an impact survey during 2014-15 due to consultation exercises held, nor had it undertaken an evaluation of attendees at training sessions who were helped to achieve their goals. Both these issues would be addressed in 2015-16.
A further comment related to elements of decline in relation to book issues and attendance at training sessions. The Library Service would be focusing on these issues during the current year by a more robust counting of training attendances which may have been undercounted, and by more promotional activities to encourage readers to take out books.
The Chairman enquired if officers were confident that service changes could be implemented post 1st April, 2016, taking account of the ongoing judicial process relating to Rhoose Library. Another Member referred to Sully Community’s interest to adopt the Library but felt that they were unable to advance discussions with the Council until the situation had been resolved. In response, the Director indicated that the Council was keen to progress matters and to this end, it was expected that a report would be submitted to Cabinet in January, 2016 with a view to implementing an April timetable. The Leader also indicated that if Town and Community Councils wished to take on specific services they should submit such requests in writing.
In addition to the above, the Committee expressed their thanks to staff within the service and congratulated them on the performance achieved. The Committee acknowledged that these achievements had been made during a very challenging period for staff.
(1) T H A T the Annual Return 2014-15 submitted to the Welsh Government be endorsed.
(2) T H A T the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Library Standards Framework be noted.
(3) T H A T the comments of the Scrutiny Committee and the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2014-15.
(2) In acknowledgement of performance and progress.
(3) To advise Cabinet.