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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]: 10th December 2012

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Welsh Public Library Standards Assessment 2011-12

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To recommend to Scrutiny the endorsement of the Annual Return for 2011-12 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.             To inform Members of the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance for 2011-12 received from the Welsh Government.

Recommendations

1.             That Members endorse the Annual Return 2011-12 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.             That Members note the performance of the Library and Information Service in relation to the Welsh Public Library 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 requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2011-12.

2.             To keep Members informed of performance and progress.

3.             To advise Cabinet.

Background

3.             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 were introduced by the Welsh Government in September 2001 as 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, drive improvements in performance, and to identify the underlying factors affecting those performances.

4.             The Standards are reviewed and updated by the Welsh Government on a three year cycle.  The Annual Return submitted for 2011-12 is the first of the Fourth Framework which operates from April 2011 to March 2014.

5.             The Assessment (Appendix 2) notes that the focus of the Fourth Framework is on 'the maintenance of core library services in what is recognised as a challenging period for the public sector.  The benchmarks and standards set by this Framework therefore reflect a more limited approach than in the past, while continuing to seek reassurance that Welsh public library authorities are endeavouring to carry out their statutory responsibilities in the delivery of the core library service'

6.             There are nine Standards in the Fourth Framework and they measure performance in key aspects of the Library and Information Service.  A set of eight Performance Indicators are also included.  These provide more detailed information about services and can identify the reasons for the strengths and weaknesses of the service.  This can assist in correlating performances with key factors such as levels of investment and can also improve the focus of the management of services.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             The Annual Return for 2011-12 is attached at Appendix 1.  It is completed using a template provided by the Welsh Government and requires sufficient information to enable the Assessors to evaluate performance and identify factors that may impact on that performance.  The Annual Return is submitted to the Welsh Government in July of each year.

8.             The Assessment from the Welsh Government on the Library and Information Service's performance in 2011-12 is to be found in Appendix 2.  The Authority's performance is comparable with other authorities in Wales, having achieved six of the nine Standards.  It partly achieved a further two Standards, and failed to achieve one Standard.  The average number of Standards achieved in Wales during this first year of the Fourth Framework was six, with the highest number achieved being eight and the lowest three.

9.             The impact of the withdrawal of the mobile library service as a result of the budgetary savings required for 2011-12 and 2012-13 is reflected in reduced performance in a number of Standards and Performance Indicators in 2011-12 and will also do so in 2012-13.  Specifically it has resulted in a reduction in the number of visits and issues as well as a reduction in the aggregate opening hours.  However, the Assessment notes that the service remains accessible to the vast majority of residents and the Standard for accessibility is still achieved.  Aggregate opening hours also still meet the stipulated requirements and the Assessors note that the introduction of the Home Borrower Service alleviates the impact of the loss of the mobile library service for those unable to use static libraries.

10.        Recognition is also given in the Assessment to the maintenance of expenditure levels on library books and other resources.  This has resulted in good levels of performance in the Standards relating to library stock - WPLS5 - Annual Acquisition of books, WPLS6 - Stock Replenishment rates and WPLS7 - Speed of supply of requested items to library users.

11.        The Authority still fails to achieve WPLS9 (floor area) and is unlikely to do so.  Significant capital investment would be required to provide the additional floor areas in libraries in order to meet the Standard.  There is no doubt that some libraries, notably those in Penarth and Llantwit Major, would benefit greatly from more space.  This would enable them to more comfortably and effectively deliver the increasing diversity of library services, to more effectively meet the expectations of service users, and enable them to fulfil their potential as Contact Points for the Council.  These libraries also under-perform in terms of the quantity of bookstock available for customers, resulting in high stock turnover and more limited choice for customers.  More space would allow the bookstock to be increased by accommodating more shelving and display space.  The Service will continue to seek opportunities to address these issues.

12.        Reference is made in the Assessment to the role of the Fourth Framework in ensuring 'that library services do not suffer disproportionate reductions in expenditure and service quality compared to other local authority statutory services.'  It is noted that the spending reductions imposed on the service by the authority's three year spending plan (up to 2013-14) have been identified and detailed planning undertaken to implement these.  It should be noted that the authority's performance in WPLPI 8 Net expenditure on Public library provision per 1,000 population remains well above the average.  However, this figure should be treated with some caution as there are some uncertainties around the comparability of the data.  The figure reported for this authority includes a very high element of central charges, amounting to 30% of the revenue budget. Variations between authorities in the make-up and amount of Central Charges may skew comparison between authorities in terms of making a valid assessment of the direct delivery costs of services.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        Performance in some areas is directly related to the level of investment in the service.  The Assessment concludes that 'There have been significant reductions in resources and withdrawal of services already and the impact of those decisions is already apparent.  Any further reductions of a similar kind would be likely to have a more profound impact on the nature and the performance of the service.'

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.        There are no direct implications arising from this Report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.        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 continuous improvement.

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.        There are no direct implications arising from this Report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.        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

18.        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

19.        This Report relates to the Service Objective within the Strategic Planning and Performance Service Plan - 'To deliver a library and information service appropriate to the needs of Vale citizens'

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.        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

21.        Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

'Maintaining a Valued Service: the Fourth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards 2011-14'.  Welsh Assembly Government, 2010

Contact Officer

Sian Jones, Chief Librarian. 01446 709381

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Service - Strategic Planning and Performance

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

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