Agenda Item No. 5
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 19 MAY 2014
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 28 APRIL, 2014
C2284 REVIEW OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES IN THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN (L) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – LIFELONG LEARNING) –
During consideration of this item the Cabinet Member for Adult Services left the room and took no part in any discussion that took place.
In presenting this item the Leader read out the following Statement:
’Members will be aware of the importance of this report for our staff and the current and future users of our library services. It sets out a number of important 'proposals’ to modernise our services, ensure that they remain a relevant and vibrant community resource, whilst also recognising the reality of ongoing pressures on public finances. The Cabinet is committed to the Library Service and the proposed strategy includes investment in buildings and services.
The report has been the subject of understandable interest and comment over recent days. This is to be expected given the fundamental nature of the proposed changes and the importance of our library and information services. However, it is also the case that the report has suffered from misrepresentation over recent days.
I am making this statement to clarify a number of important issues and provide assurances to staff and service users.
1/ The proposals within the report are the culmination of work by a Cabinet led working group beginning in September 2013 and ending as promised in March 2014.
2/ The work of the group has been supported by a public consultation process in November and December last year and a number of staff focus groups. The results of these processes are set out in Appendices E and G of the report
3/ As indicated the proposals seek to secure the future of all of the Vale’s libraries and broaden their appeal to a new generation of library users. In some cases this will need to be through different and more innovative models of service delivery.
4/ The proposals in relation to community-managed libraries are an example of this and are based on positive evidence from experiences elsewhere. The objective is to seek to maintain rather than cut key library services.
5/ The key point to make clear is that the report before Cabinet today sets out a number of important proposed changes for the service. It should not be considered as a fait accompli and there is clearly a long way to go in progressing such a strategy.
6/ The proposed strategy will clearly need to be the subject of consideration by Members of the Council’s Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee. Prior to implementation of the individual proposals full consultation with service users, staff, trade unions and wider stakeholders will be undertaken.
7/ A particular focus of the consultation process will be engagement with communities where community supported / managed libraries are proposed.
8/ The focus of consultation with employees and trade unions will be to seek to minimise any implications on jobs and terms and conditions arising from the specific proposals within the strategy.
9/ The staff consultation process going forward will be undertaken in accordance with the Council’s agreed Avoiding Redundancy procedures (where appropriate) and with a clear emphasis on pursuing redeployment options, exploring consensual ways of managing changes to staffing rotas and seeking voluntary reductions in staffing levels (where this is necessary).
10/ There is, as indicated a long way to go and the involvement and engagement of all stakeholders will be important in achieving the underpinning objectives of the review. The direction of travel is in my view clear, but the means of getting there will be need to be informed by the consultation process.
11/ It will be noted that as a 'starting point’ the report recommends a referral of the proposals to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee. This will be helpful in ensuring the robustness of all aspects of the report.
12/ On the basis of the above it is accepted that Cabinet will approve the report in principle today and make a final decision on the strategy after considering the outcome of the consideration by Lifelong Learning Scrutiny. Following this and before implementation of any of the individual proposals, consultation will be undertaken with staff, communities and relevant stakeholders.
13/ In accordance with the above and for the sake of clarity, I wish to amend the recommendations within the report as follows: -
1. That Cabinet approve, in principle, the proposed Library Strategy as set out in Appendix A.
2. That this report is referred to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for their consideration.
3. That final approval of the strategy will be made by Cabinet at a further meeting and after considering the comments and any recommendations from the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.
4. That delegated authority is given to the Chief / Director of Learning and Skills in consultation with the Leader to implement individual proposals within the Library Development Plan after considering the results of further consultation and any specific equality impact assessments where relevant.
Approval was sought for the proposals put forward by the Library Review Group following a fundamental review of the service.
In recent years the library service had been required to reduce operating costs and secure efficiencies. Whilst an incremental approach to reducing the budget enabled services to be sustained in the medium term, given the severity of the cut to the Council's revenue settlement for 2014/15 and the anticipated reductions in consecutive financial years, it was clear that a fundamental review of the service was required.
A Cabinet led review group was established in September 2013 and work commenced on the review in late September and concluded at the end of March 2014.
The terms of reference for the review were attached at appendix A to the report and set out the drivers for the review, the areas to be examined and the desired outcomes which were listed below:
- Deliver statutory duties, work to Welsh Government standards and development frameworks, and provide a high quality service in the most cost effective manner.
- Identify gaps in the current level of provision and make recommendations on how and if those caps can be filled.
- Make the best use of assets for the benefit of local communities.
- Ensure that the service is flexible, adaptable and sustainable for the future.
- Ensure the service is accessible to all, supports the most vulnerable and individuals as required throughout their lives.
This was a matter for Executive decision.
(1) T H A T Cabinet approve, in principle, the proposed Library Strategy as set out in Appendix A attached to the report.
(2) T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) for their consideration.
(3) T H A T final approval of the strategy will be made by Cabinet at a further meeting and after considering the comments and any recommendations from the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).
(4) T H A T delegated authority be given to the Chief / Director of Learning and Skills in consultation with the Leader to implement individual proposals within the Library Development Plan after considering the results of further consultation and any specific equality impact assessments where relevant.
Reasons for decisions
(1) The proposed strategy would enable the Council to provide a comprehensive library service to all residents that was more relevant, efficient and sustainable.
(2) The Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning ) was consulted on the future direction of the library service during the early stages of the review. It would now want to consider and comment on the proposals put forward by the Review Group.
(3) To consider the comments and recommendations from the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning).
(4) The Development Delivery Plan would enable the Strategy to be implemented in a timely manner and provided a means to monitor progress to ensure consultation with communities in areas where a community supported/managed library was proposed and where staff and trade unions were an integral part of the plan.'
Attached as Appendix – Report to Cabinet – 28 APRIL, 2014