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Agenda Item No. 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]: 11th November 2013

 

Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

Welsh Public Library Standards Assessment 2012-13

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To endorse the Annual Return for 2012-13 submitted to the Welsh Government.

2.             To inform Members of the feedback on the Library and Information Service performance for 2012-13 received from the Welsh Government.

Recommendations

1.             That Members endorse the Annual Return 2012-13 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.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To comply with the requirement of the Welsh Government for formal approval of the Annual Return for 2012-13.

2.             To keep Members informed of performance and progress..

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 standards serve to some extent as an interpretation of the Public Libraries and Museums Act. 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 2012-13 is the second of the Fourth Framework which operates from April 2011 to March 2014. Work is already underway by the Welsh Government to develop a Fifth Framework of standards to operate from April 2014.

5.             There are nine Standards in the Fourth Framework and they measure performance in key aspects of service to residents in the Vale.  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

6.             The Annual Return for 2012-13 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 performance.  The Annual Return is submitted to the Welsh Government in July of each year.

7.             The Assessment from the Welsh Government on the Library and Information Service's performance in 2012-13 is to be found in Appendix 2.  At the time of the report in July the Authority's performance was comparable with other authorities in Wales, having achieved six of the nine Standards.  The average number of Standards achieved in Wales during the year was six, with the highest number achieved being eight and the lowest three.

8.             Since July 2013 the Library Service has achieved a seventh standard by providing WiFi at Llantwit Major and Dinas Powys libraries, WPLS 4. This will be reported in the annual return for 2013-2014.

9.             The two standards which we do not achieve are the standards for professional staffing (WPLS 8) and space and buildings (WPLS 9). There are no prospects of increasing the total number professional staff on the establishment in the near future, so the Service will fail WPLS 8 again next year. Despite the Assessors optimism that we could achieve the standard on space and buildings this will also not be met. The Authority may go further to achieving the standard by conducting disability audits on all buildings, but it will not achieve the 27 square metres of library space per 1000 residents by March 2014. This could only be achieved with significant capital investment. Several libraries, notably Penarth and Llantwit Major, would benefit greatly from more space. Additional space would enable them to deliver a greater range of library services and activities and to meet the expectations of service users. The Service will continue to seek opportunities to address these issues.

10.        Reference is made to a Home Borrower Service, established to provide a service to less mobile and housebound former mobile library users. The service visits all the ex mobile users who wished to receive it and is successfully delivered by volunteers. The service has expanded to include housebound readers who did not previously use the mobiles and it will continue to grow as required to provide a good service to housebound users.

11.        Reference is made in the report to a number of Welsh Public Library Performance Indicators having declined over the previous year. The take-up of available PC booking sessions (WPLPI  3) has dropped but this is partly a consequence of the Service having more available PCs than the Welsh average. The Service could drop the number of PCs to raise the percentage take-up statistics, particularly for children, but this would mean turning people away at the busiest times of the day and it would mean that we would not have available PCs in some libraries for class use.

12.        Though the number of physical visits made to libraries (WPLPI 1) and the number of items issued (WPLPI 4) have gone down over the previous year they still remain very healthy and this reflects the wide range of activities and resources in libraries and the continued good choice of lending materials. Total visits were above the Welsh average but annual issues were below the average.  The impact of the withdrawal of the mobile library service as a result of the budgetary savings for 2011-12 and 2012-13 has been partly responsible for a reduction in the number of physical visits and issues, but the numbers of virtual visitors continues to increase, as does the numbers attending library events and activities. 

13.        Recognition is 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 and this will continue until March 2014. WPLS5 - Annual Acquisition of books, WPLS6 - Stock Replenishment rates and WPLS7 - Speed of supply of requested items to library users.

14.        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. 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.

15.        Reference is made in the covering letter addressed to the Managing Director, Appendix 3, that the Welsh Government seeks "reassurance that any reductions in expenditure on the provision of a library service are not disproportionate / leading to a disproportionate impact on service delivery, when compared to spending reductions on other statutory services".

16.        It is notable that there has been a reduction in expenditure on libraries during 2012-2013 but this reduction was carefully planned and implemented in advance as part of the authority's three year spending plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

17.        In the current circumstances all councils will need to make difficult decisions about a range of services and libraries will need to continue to make savings.  Care will continue to be taken to minimise the impact of savings on front line services.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.        There are no direct implications arising from this Report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        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

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.        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

22.        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

23.        This report falls within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.        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

25.        Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

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

 

Contact Officer

Christopher Edwards, Acting Chief Librarian. 01446 709381

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Service - Strategic Planning and Performance

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer