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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 09 March, 2015

Report of the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

Review of Library and Information Services in the Vale of Glamorgan

Purpose of the Report

1. To ask that Cabinet considers the outcome of consultation on proposals arising from the Library Strategy and if minded approves the implementation of the recommendations.  

Recommendations

1. Cabinet considers the report in Appendix B which provides an analysis of responses to the recent consultation on three proposals put forward in the Library Strategy and has regard to the Equality Impact Assessments (Appendix C) relating to these proposals.

 

2. That in the context of 1 above, Cabinet considers the reconfiguration of opening hours set out in Appendix D for the libraries at Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Major and whether such proposals should be implemented with effect from 1st June 2015 subject to 8 below.

 

3. That in the context of 1 above, Cabinet considers whether Expressions of Interest should be sought from groups interested in developing a community led library in Dinas Powys, Rhoose, St Athan, Wenvoe or Sully with a deadline for submission of 18th May 2015.

 

4. In the event an Expression of Interest is not received for any one of the libraries listed in recommendation 3, Cabinet considers closure of the library in question and granting delegated authority to the Director of Learning and Skills, in consultation with the Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Services, to take all necessary action to close the relevant library or libraries.

 

5. Upon receipt of one or more Expressions of Interest to run a community library or libraries, Cabinet considers whether the groups concerned should be asked to submit a business case for the running of the library or libraries by 12 July 2015. In the event a business case is not received for a particular library, Cabinet considers closure of the library in question and granting delegated authority to the Director of Learning and Skills, in consultation with the Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Services, to take all necessary action to close the relevant library or libraries.

 

6. Subject to Cabinet’s consideration of recommendation 5, Cabinet agrees that appropriate support is commissioned for community groups to enable the development of robust business cases.

 

7. Cabinet considers whether further discussion should take place on the location of the library in St Athan with any party expressing an interest in establishing a community library in the area.    

 

8. Should Cabinet be minded to approve the recommendations relating to opening hours and the establishment of community led libraries, it considers giving the Director of Learning and Skills in consultation with the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Adult Services, delegated authority to develop and implement a phased restructure of the library service to support implementation of the recommendations and subject to consultation with staff and the relevant trade unions.

 

9. Subject to the outcome of Cabinet’s consideration of recommendation 5, Cabinet agrees to receive a further report on the evaluation of submitted business cases in early autumn 2015.

 

10. Cabinet refers this report to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for consideration and comment.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. Cabinet is aware of the responses to the consultation and the Equality Impact Assessments prior to deciding next steps.

 

2. To enable a reduction in overall opening hours resulting in a more efficient and sustainable service for the future.

 

3. To assess the interest and intent of groups in the development of community led libraries.

 

4. To provide clarity over the future of the library in question and to ensure that financial savings targets are met.

 

5. To ensure that group plans are viable before progressing to the next stage in the development of community led libraries.

 

6. Each community group has access to a range of advice, guidance and support when developing its business case.  

 

7. The outcome of the consultation on the relocation of St Athan library was inconclusive.

 

8. Proposals are progressed in accordance with the Council’s avoiding redundancy policy.  

 

9. Cabinet approval is received for submitted plans prior to progressing to the next stage of the development of community led libraries.    

 

10. The Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee is consulted and comments on the recommendations contained in this report.

Background

2. At the Cabinet meeting of 11 August 2014, eleven of fourteen recommendations arising from a review of library services were approved. It was agreed to consult on three further, and more significant, proposed changes to library services:

• The development of community led libraries in St Athan, Dinas Powys, Sully, Wenvoe and Rhoose.

• Reduced library opening hours in Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Major.

• Relocating library services in St Athan.

 

3. The consultation which focussed on these three proposed changes began on 13 October 2014 and closed on 31 December 2014. To ensure that stakeholders had access to all of the information required to make informed comments on the strategy a comprehensive consultation document was produced (Appendix A). This document set out the findings of the library review, the rationale for the proposed changes, and also offered information on how the Council believed these could be implemented. In addition to this the full strategy was made available, along with performance and usage data for each library in the Vale, and a report produced by the Arts Council for England which highlighted successful alternative delivery models for library services. The consultation document which also included three separate questionnaires; one for each proposal, was made available to Vale residents and library users on-line via the Council’s website and in paper form at each of the Vale’s libraries.

 

4. To further support the consultation a series of drop-in sessions were hosted at each of the Vale’s libraries. These sessions were designed to help promote the consultation and offer residents the opportunity to discuss the strategy and consultation process with senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate. The primary objective of the sessions was to ensure that residents had a full understanding of the context in which the consultation was being undertaken and of the proposals prior to responding.  

Relevant Issues and Options

5. A full analysis of the consultation results is included in Appendix B. Although the questionnaires offered an opportunity for residents to provide an explanation of why they supported or opposed the proposals, the conversations that took place between Council employees and local residents at the drop-in sessions also provided a useful source of data. For this reason the sessions were documented and the views shared inform the report in Appendix B.  Correspondence and a petition from Vale residents received by the Leader of the Council during the consultation period are also included.

 

6. Responses to part 1 of the consultation; the introduction of community led libraries, demonstrate that the views of residents vary greatly across the Vale which suggests that the viability of community libraries would also vary between communities. The results suggest that community led facilities would be viable in Dinas Powys, St Athan and Wenvoe. However, the data gathered suggests that such a facility would not garner significant support in Sully and clearly indicates that the establishment of a community library in Rhoose would not be welcomed.

 

7. Of the 26 survey respondents that regularly use Sully library, only 8 (21%) answered that they would support the establishment of a community library in their area. However, an encouraging degree of support has been shown by members of the Community Council and the Save Sully Campaign Group for the development of a community led library. Senior Officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate were invited to attend a meeting with representatives of both groups during the consultation period to discuss the proposal and explore how it could be supported by the community. Further contact has been received recently expressing an interest in progressing discussions and exploring opportunities for improving use of the library through it becoming a community led facility.

 

8. There were more responses from regular users of Rhoose than any other facility in the Vale. Of the 164 survey respondents that regularly use Rhoose Library, 87% answered that they would not support the establishment of a community library in their area. This was reinforced by the views shared by those that attended the drop-in session and a public meeting in Rhoose. The responses of the Rhoose users, including the petition and correspondence to the Leader of the Council, make it clear that local residents do not want to see the library closed. Although the consultation document made it clear that the status quo is not an option the users of Rhoose library were clear that the status quo should be maintained particularly as Rhoose in their opinion receives fewer council services than other areas and in light of the growing population.

 

9. It is evident from the response received that the residents of Rhoose have a great deal of passion for their local library and this was reinforced by the turn out and comments made at the drop-in session and at a public meeting they organised and which Council offers attended held on 15th December.  This passion suggests that there could be interest in sustaining the library as a community led facility with the support of the Council. Given that the status quo is not an option and the alternative for the libraries at Dinas Powys, Rhoose, Wenvoe, St Athan and Sully is closure, it is advised that all five communities are offered the opportunity to make a successful transition to a community led library. To progress the implementation of this proposal, the following steps are recommended:

• Seek formal Expressions of Interest which are to be submitted by 18th May 2015.

• In the event an Expression of Interest is not received for any one of the libraries, the library in question would close.

• Upon receipt of one or more Expressions of Interest, the community group concerned will be asked to submit a business case for running the library by 12 July 2015.

• In the event a business case is not received for a particular library, the library in question would close.

• An evaluation of the submitted business cases is reported to Cabinet in early autumn 2015. In the event a business case is considered unviable, the library in question would close.

 

10. A range of support and advice may be required by community groups to enable them to develop robust business cases. This would be provided or commissioned by the Council for any community group requesting such support. 

 

11. The timetable for the establishment of each community library where a viable business case is developed would be clarified as part of the evaluation of the business case. Whilst it is likely that the development of community libraries will continue over a period of time the preferred timetable would be to launch the libraries in the spring of 2016.  A range of support would be provided to community groups such as :

• Advice and guidance on becoming a constituted organisation.

• Recruitment (including DBS checks) and training of volunteers.

• On-going provision and rotation of book stock.

• Transfer of all fixtures and fittings including ICT equipment.

• On-going provision of peripatetic professional librarian support.

 

12. The second part of the consultation focused on proposed changes to the library opening hours.  The consultation document included the following statement: The Vale of Glamorgan is seeking to reduce the cost of running Barry, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major and Penarth Libraries by at least 40.5 hours a week. This will significantly reduce the cost of running each library and so create a sustainable service for the future. Respondents were asked to select one of four potential options and were also offered the opportunity for residents to suggest any other ways library opening hours could be reduced. Analysis of the consultation responses showed a clear preference for reduced opening hours at all libraries with varied opening and closing times to allow for at least one late evening a week.

 

13. The schedule of opening hours for each of the town libraries (Appendix D) has been proposed in response to the views expressed during the consultation exercise.  The proposals show an overall reduction of 41 hours achieved by adjusting the opening and closing times each day whilst maintaining one late evening at each library. In order to meet the savings target for 2015/16 it is proposed that the revised opening hours are implemented from 1st June 2015.

 

14. Responses to the third part of the consultation about the relocation of St Athan Library were inconclusive. Whilst a number of respondents made suggestions about alternative locations there was no consensus of opinion. It is proposed that future consideration of the location of the library in St Athan is tied in with discussions with any groups expressing an interest in running a community led library in the area.

 

15. A number of suggestions to enhance the service and the use of library buildings were put forward during the consultation some of which are already being progressed such as the establishment of ‘friends of’ groups to support the libraries at Barry, Penarth, Cowbridge and Llantwit Major. Other common suggestions included the introduction of a coffee shop, leasing or sharing library buildings with other organisations and facilitating community use of libraries outside of opening hours. These suggestions will be explored further and a report brought to a future Cabinet meeting to progress any further developments. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16. The Council’s budget has been under pressure for a number of years with £28.8 million in savings identified between 2010/11 and 2014/15. Further substantial savings are necessary in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18. The latest projections now estimate that this will equate to a reduction of over £6.8 million in 2015/16 and approximately £24.7 million in total over the next three years. Failure to deliver the required savings is not an option for the Council. It is against a backdrop requiring savings that the review of library services in the Vale was undertaken. If fully implemented it is anticipated that the Library Strategy will deliver savings in the region of £ 578k over the two year period 2015/16 to 2016/17. A breakdown of the estimated net savings is provided in Appendix E.

 

17. Two key strands of the strategy; community led libraries and the reduction to opening hours will have staffing implications. The reduction in opening hours at the four town libraries and the establishment of community led libraries will necessitate a restructure of staffing across the library service. Should Cabinet approve these proposals, delegated authority will be required to develop and implement the necessary changes. 

 

18. Two staff reference groups were established last autumn to ensure effective communication with both Unions and library staff. Subject to the decision of Cabinet, full consultation will be carried out with staff and the relevant trade unions. As part of the consultation we will seek to progress these proposals in accordance with the Council's Avoiding Redundancy Policy.  Where possible, staff will be redeployed to vacant positions.  Any costs of redundancy could initially be met from the Early Retirement/Redundancy Reserve.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

19. The review focuses on developing a model of service delivery which can be sustained in the long term within reduced funding levels.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20. 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'.

 

21. Whilst the core Library Service is free under the Act, the Local Government and Housing Act 1980 and Library charges (England and Wales) Regulations 1991 define what may not be charged for and also gives Library Authorities the power to make charges for the provision of specified Library facilities.

 

22. Reference shall be had to the duties in Section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and any relevant case law on the consideration of libraries.

 

23. The proposals have potential employment law implications; advice in this regard will be sought as and when appropriate throughout the process.

Crime and Disorder Implications

24. There are no crime and disorder implications arising directly from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

25. An intended outcome of the review was to ensure the service is accessible to all and supports the most vulnerable individuals as required throughout their lives.  In reshaping library services the Council carried out an Equalities Impact Assessment and it was considered that there was no potential for discrimination or adverse impact for groups protected under the Equalities Act 2010. Further Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) have been carried out on the three proposals which were the subject of the recent consultation (Appendix C). In the case of the proposal to establish community led libraries as an alternative to closure, area specific EIAs have been completed.

Corporate/Service Objectives

26. The Library and Information Service contributes to a number of corporate objectives, especially in the areas of Community Leadership, Children and Young People, and Lifelong Learning and Skills.

Policy Framework and Budget

27. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

28. An open public consultation to which Vale residents, identified stakeholders and other interested parties were invited to respond was carried out between 13 October 2014 and 31 December 2014. The consultation document is attached as Appendix A to this report as well as a report analysing the responses to the consultation (Appendix B).

 

29. To further support the consultation a series of drop-in sessions were hosted at each of the Vale’s libraries.

 

30. Consultation with staff and trade unions is an integral part of the implementing these proposals.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

31. Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

32. The following background papers are available in the Members room:

• Survey and supporting documentation provided during the consultation.

• Individual survey responses.

• All correspondence received during the consultation.

• Notes of drop-in meetings, meetings with Wenvoe and St Athan Community Councils and public meeting held in Rhoose. 

• Petition from Rhoose Residents.

• Local bus timetables

Contact Officer

Paula Ham, Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources. 

Officers Consulted

Andrew Borsden, Lead Officer: Youth and Community Learning

Christopher Edwards, Chief Librarian

Nicola Monckton, Accountant

Reuben Bergman Head of Human Resources

Debbie Marles, Head of Legal Services

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

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