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Agenda Item No. 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 11 December 2017

 

Report of the Director of Learning and Skills

 

Welsh Public Library Standards Performance 2016-2017

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To recommend to Members the endorsement of the Annual Return for 2016-2017 submitted to Welsh Government in June 2017.
  2. To inform Members of the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance received from Welsh Government.
  3. To inform Members about the Sixth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2017-2020.

Recommendations

  1. That Members recommend to Cabinet the endorsement of the Annual Return for 2016-2017 submitted to Welsh Government in June 2017.
  2. That Members note the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Libraries Standards framework.
  3. That the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration together with any comments from the Scrutiny Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To comply with the requirements of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2016-2017.
  2. To keep Members informed of progress.

Background

  1. The Council is a Library Authority under the terms of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and as such has a statutory duty to 'provide a comprehensive and efficient library service'. The Welsh Public Library Standards were introduced by Welsh Government in 2001 to provide a common performance assessment framework for public library services in Wales. The aim is 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. To some extent the standards serve the function of assessing whether the Council complies with its duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.
  2. The Welsh Public Library Standards are reviewed and updated by Welsh Government on a three year cycle. The Annual Return submitted for 2016-17 is the third report of the Fifth Framework which operated from April 2014 to March 2017. In setting targets and areas of reporting, the Fifth Framework has taken into account the financial difficulties affecting Councils yet also still set some aspirational targets.
  3. The Standards in the Fifth Framework are made up of 18 core entitlements and 16 quality indicators grouped around 4 core service themes, which are:
  • customers and communities;
  • access for all;
  • learning for life; and
  • leadership and development.
  1. The Annual Return to Welsh Government for 2016-2017 reflects the changes made as a result of the Libraries Review. These included changes to opening hours at main libraries from June 2015, completion of changes to the staffing establishment and during the course of 2016-17 the establishment of 5 community libraries, most of which had operated for less than 6 months by the end of March 2017.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Library Standards Return for 2016-17 is attached at Appendix 1, with Case Studies at Appendix 2. The return is completed using a template provided by Welsh Government and it requires sufficient information to enable the assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on performance. The first part of the reports, pp.1-10 relates to Quality Indicators (WPLSQI 1-16) and the second part pp.1-8 relate to Core Entitlements.
  2. Feedback in the form of an Annual Assessment from Welsh Government is to be found at Appendix 3. The executive summary of the assessment commends the Vale of Glamorgan for continued investment in stock but also mentions disappointment that the authority misses staffing and opening hour targets. The assessment goes on to summarise that the "authority appears to be an average performer, with many indicators in all areas close to the median for Wales and some pockets of good performance".
  3. In terms of the performance indicators which were not met, 1 Quality Indicator was not met and 2 were only partially met as follows:
  • QI 3, for individual development, was only partially met. This QI relates to activities provided for library users in relation to literacy and digital skills, reader development and information literacy. During 2016-17 there was significant change in libraries with the implementation of the community libraries initiative, and this work could not be timetabled or undertaken to the same level as before. While the target was missed in 2016-17 it is anticipated that this QI will be achieved again during the period of the new framework.
  • QI 13, staffing and professional staffing per capita, was only partially met. Given necessary staffing changes over recent years, which followed opening hour changes and the establishment of 5 community libraries, it was expected that the total staffing establishment would not meet the indicator for staff per capita and also professional staff per capita. It is not foreseen that this QI will be achieved during the life of the next framework. It is felt that the current library workforce is appropriate for the structure of the service. Whilst staff numbers do not meet the target the indicator does not take account of over 100 volunteers who now do valuable work in their communities to provide libraries services with substantial Council support for infrastructure, equipment, books and staff support.
  • QI 16, opening hours per capita, was not met. This QI includes the opening hours for both Council run and Community Supported libraries. Together they open for 107 hours, which is fewer than the target of 120 hours per annum per 1,000 resident population. Currently, there is little demand from customers for extended hours, however a number of community libraries have expressed a desire to increase their hours in future, subject to the availability of volunteers. In an effort to make libraries accessible to users outside current opening hours the library service has invested in a system which will enable unstaffed use of Barry library up to 9pm weekdays. The Sixth Framework asks Authorities to report on the number of unstaffed hours they provide from 2017 onwards, however, these will not be included in the calculation for the QI.
  1. The Annual Return for 2016-17 and subsequent feedback from Welsh Government was the last in the Fifth Framework of the Public Library Standards. The Sixth Framework of Public Library Standards came into operation in April 2017 and will cover the period to March 2020. A copy of the framework is attached at Appendix 4.
  2. Recognition is made in the Sixth Framework that the public sector still faces considerable financial pressure and that the expectations for high quality library services have to be balanced alongside the statutory requirements of the Public Libraries and Museums Act. One of the ways in which this balancing act can be achieved is the inclusion of Community Supported Libraries within the orbit of statutory services. This is the route which the Vale of Glamorgan has embarked upon and for the first time the Framework recognises the role of Community Libraries and the inclusion of their data on pages 26/27 of the document. The document also sets out the important role of libraries in relation to the Well-being of Future Generations Act, pages 24/25. In other respects the Sixth Framework is much like the Fifth, though it reworks 18 core entitlements down to 12.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Library Service will work within current budgets.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council is a Library Authority under the terms of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and as such has a statutory duty to 'provide a comprehensive and efficient library service'. The Public Library Standards provide a framework within which to evaluate the performance of the service and to secure improvement.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The Standards address issues relating to equality of access to the Library and Information Service, compliance with disability legislation, and the provision of books and other materials in the Welsh language.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The Library and Information Service supports the Council's Wellbeing Outcome 3: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale and contributes to Corporate Objective 6: Valuing culture and diversity.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The recommendations of this report are within existing policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The Library and Information Service consults with its users through regular user surveys arranged in accordance with a national framework of Public Library User Surveys.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Learning and Culture.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Phil Southard, Culture and Community Learning Manager

Officers Consulted

Christopher Edwards, Library Services Manager

Trevor Baker, Head of Strategy, Community Learning & Resources

Responsible Officer:

Paula Ham, Director of Learning and Skills