Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 12TH JANUARY 2015
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 8TH DECEMBER, 2014
“ WELSH PUBLIC LIBRARY STANDARDS ASSESSMENT 2013/14 (DLS) –
Public Library Standards had been introduced by Welsh Government in September 2001 as a common performance assessment framework for public library services in Wales. The purpose of the Standards was to provide information on the performance of public library services across Wales, drive improvements in performance and to identify the underlying factors affecting those performances. Standards are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle and the Annual Report submitted for 2013/14 was the third and final return under the Fourth Framework which operated from April 2011 to March 2014. A Fifth Framework had been developed to operate from April 2014, and would be reported on for the first time in July 2015.
The report outlined that there were nine Standards in the Fourth Framework which measured performance in key aspects of service to residents in the Vale, with a set of eight Performance Indicators included.
The Annual Return for 2013-14 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and had been completed using a template provided by Welsh Government which required sufficient information to enable the Assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on performance.
In presenting the report the Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources advised that the Assessment from the Welsh Government on the Library and Information Service’s performance for 2013-14 was to be found at Appendix 2 to the report. The report identified that the Authority had achieved six out of the nine Standards and had partly achieved two others, Members being informed that this was the same number that had been achieved in the previous two years. For Wales as a whole, the average number in the previous two years had been six, but in the final year of the Framework this had increased to 6.5. It was noted that as a result the Vale therefore had achieved slightly under the average, in comparison the highest number of Standards achieved across Wales had been nine and the lowest had been four.
However, it was further report that during 2013-14 the Library Service had achieved a seventh Standard for the first time by providing WiFi at Llantwit Major and Dinas Powys libraries. However, in contrast a Standard which had previously been achieved on the supply of requested materials, had not been met due to temporary capacity and system issues in the key team which ordered and supplied requested books. The issues had now been corrected by the use of a credit card to order reserved books quickly and systems put in place to ensure customers received their reserved books promptly.
Paragraph 8 of the report stated that it was unfortunate that gaining a Standard and losing a Standard meant that the Library Service, if judged on the number of Standards only, suggested that no overall changes made in the final year of the Framework. The Standards that had been partly achieved were the standards for staffing and space and buildings.
In referring to the Standard for professionally qualified staff, this required that 23% of library posts be professional posts with a formal qualification in library and information studies. For the Vale only 20% of posts and their staff held such a qualification. With regard to space and buildings, the requirement for space stated that the service should provide 27m² of library space per 1,000 residents. The Vale currently provided 24.2m² with this Standard only being able to be achieved with significant capital investment for library extensions or remodelling. The second aspect of this Standard which the Library Service did not also meet was the requirement to have disability audits of all libraries during the three year period. Property Services had not been able to schedule this work during the last two years of the Framework but had given an undertaking to do so in the next financial year.
The report also commented on the eight Performance Indicators and noted “marginal changes” in many Indicators with encouraging performance in financial indicators. Performance in relation to a number of Welsh Public Library Performance Indicators had increased over the previous year, including a 3% increase in ICT use. However, the percentage in the Vale was lower than the Welsh average but this was accounted for by the Vale having a greater availability of PCs, which in turn lowered the percentage use of available time.
In referring to the number of physical visits to libraries and the number of items issued, although the report stated this had declined over the previous year, it was still considered that this remained healthy and reflected the wide range of activities and resources in libraries and the continued good choice of lending materials. The number of virtual visitors had also increased as had the numbers attending library events and activities and these figures had offset any declines to put total visits above the Welsh average. However, the report acknowledged that the Annual Report at Appendix 2 cited that progress in the Vale over the three years term of the Fourth Framework was “limited”.
A Committee Member proposed that the Scrutiny Committee offer its thanks to the staff within the Library Service and moved the recommendation be passed to Cabinet for approval. The Chairman endorsed the Member’s views and stated that the Library Service was very good and that the staff were highly dedicated.
Having considered the report, it was subsequently
(1) T H A T the Annual Return 2013-14 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 and the report referred to Cabinet for consideration.
(3) T H A T the Library and Information Service be thanked for their performance.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2013-14.
(2) To keep Members informed of performance and progress and Cabinet’s consideration.
(3) In order to offer the Committee’s thanks to the staff within the Library and Information Service.”
Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 8th December 2014