Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Cornwall Council

This is the response on behalf of Cornwall Council’s Library Service in relation to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Consultation on the “Impact of Library Closures”.

This report outlines:

Cornwall Council’s financial position following the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Proposals to meet to savings required whilst ensuring a sustainable service.

Libraries for the Future Programme.

Consultation and engagement.

Improvements to service delivery.

Future of Cornwall Library Service.

Background

1. Cornwall like many places across the Country suffered the knock on impact of the economic downturn. Following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) announcement on the 20 October, Cornwall Council set an emergency budget outlining financial saving that would be required to achieve a 30% reduction in formula grant funding over the four year period. The decision was made to go early with the cuts and set a budget that would protect essential services for people in Cornwall.

Cornwall Library Service operates through:

32 static library sites, four of which are dual use facilities within schools, and five of which are joint Cornwall Council One Stop Shop facilities.

Four standard mobile library vans.

One specialist van which concentrates on visiting residential homes and sheltered housing.

One community library.

Internet site within the Cornwall Council corporate site which provides library members with free access to subscription reference materials.

Cornwall Council Library Service were required to operate on a significantly reduced budget and to take savings early wherever possible in order to reduce the impact of the reduction. The net library services budget was reduced to £3.526 million in 2011–12 compared with £4.264 million in 2010–11.

2. In order to preserve library facilities it was proposed to achieve most of the savings through integrating libraries with One Stop Shops and the Registration Service to form a new service called Face to Face which would be a division of Shared Services, within the Communities Directorate. Prior to embarking on the organisational design of the new Service. A review of existing opening times and staffing levels was undertaken. This resulted in more efficient use of staff in providing service delivery at the busiest periods and dealt with issues of staff cover when dealing with sickness, leave and reduce issues around lone working.

3. Weekday opening hours were changed to 6 pm as a result of a Public Library Service national target intended to provide open time beyond 9–5 for those customers at work during the day. National Public Library Service targets are no longer in force. Spreading the late night opening has not been an efficient use of available opening hours as the period between five and six is generally travelling time for those at work. Reverting to the previous offer of one late night open until 6.30 pm helped to reduce the lone working implications arising from staff maintaining the service during the extremely quiet evening sessions.

Following consultation with staff and Local Council Members, the new proposals came into effect from 1 April and saw a number of libraries implement new opening times—in many cases this was reflected through very limited reductions in times. For example—Falmouth Library now opens from 9.30 am–5.00 pm—Monday, Tuesday and Friday, from 9.00 am until 6.30 pm on Thursday and from 10.00 am until 4.00 pm on a Saturday and will remain closed on Wednesday and Sunday—resulting in the reduction of just one hour a week compared with previous arrangements.

A report was requested by the Director of the Communities Directorate from Cornwall Council’s Community Intelligence team in order to improve our understanding of libraries in Cornwall. Findings supported the Library Service Review and this evidence underpinned decisions about changes to service delivery. A copy of this report and findings can be viewed at: http://cornwallcouncilintranet.cc.cornwallonline.net/default.aspx?page=4123

4. The proposals around delivering face to face services in a cost effective and efficient way by relocating One Stop Shops in with existing Library premises identified a number of benefits:

The library infrastructure would be maintained when many other areas in the Country were stopping these services and closing down Library Facilities.

The customer receives an enhanced and improved service as more services are offered from a single location.

Provided greater opportunities to work with partners to utilise space and deliver more seamless services.

Enabled Cornwall Council to become more creative in the ways services are delivered to the public.

Develop a “community hub” approach to these facilities where the community and partners can work from—developing the “Big Society” concept.

The libraries/buildings/registration offices could be used outside of normal working hours by outside organisations, a natural extension of the community hub concept.

Potential increase in footfall for the Library facilities from those visiting other Council functions.

Future ProvisionDeveloping and Efficient Library Service for the 21st Century

5. Alongside this service review Cornwall Library Service were successful in a bid to deliver Phase 1 of the Libraries For the Future Programme—as a consortium of south west libraries. The consortium was made up of four local authorities—Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

The Programme had to be driven by local authorities based on the needs of individuals and communities, with the emphasis being on providing more effective, creative and sustainable services beyond traditional organisational boundaries. The aim was to consider how we could work collaboratively with other Authorities to make efficiencies in the library back office functions, encourage channel migration, and e-enabled usage of the service, and to increase access and usage. Through this collaborative approach it was estimated that savings between 4% and 15% could be achieved through the four library authorities working together.

However as a result of the changing financial climate, budget cuts and existing reviews taking place to ensure a sustainable service for Cornwall was coupled with the timing of the implementation of this programme—which was problematic and the original estimation of savings was not achievable. However the benefits that were achievable would help contribute to developing a strong library service for the future. The Libraries for the Future Programme allowed a mechanism to review library services and build on existing partnerships across traditional local authority boundaries and to assist to drive out efficiencies and work more collaboratively together.

The aim of the south west consortium was to design a single entity to be able to deliver what came to be called the “library technical” elements of library provision—particularly focusing around systems and processes relating to stock procurement and management. This technical approach to “back office” functions focused the programme to concentrate consulting with the stakeholders that were directly involved in this process.

Since the project centred on “back office” functions it was difficult to consider the needs of service users. However partners involved in the process recognised the value of keeping customers at the centre of the discussions as the aim of the project was ultimately to deliver a more efficient and effective service to individuals and communities.

In August 2010, a Member Working Group, was established by the Cabinet Member for Customer First and Culture. Members carried out substantial work during August 2010 and March 2011 to develop a number of recommendations. An implementation plan was then produced based on the 12 recommendations. This demonstrates that library provision across Cornwall is given a high priority within the authority.

6. Recommendations from the Member Working Group

1.Partnership across library services—Cornwall Council should explore and evaluate cross authority partnership working.

2.Professional capacity and expertise—the Face to Face division of Shared Services should retain sufficient capacity and professional expertise within its library function to fulfil its potential to support key Cornwall Council objectives.

3.Community Hubs—explore the role of libraries as community hubs.

4.Social and learning outcomes—to meet the social and learning needs of the people of Cornwall a review of the library core service should be undertaken, bid for funding to deliver specific outcomes to support corporate and other objectives and explore the use of volunteers to support delivery of social and learning outcomes.

5.Cultural offer—Cornwall Libraries should clearly define the role it plays in the wider strategic cultural offer of Cornwall.

6.Public access to computers—Cornwall Council should provide a corporate budget for supplying and maintaining public access computers in libraries in order to support its objective of increasing the uptake of online access to council services.

7.Marketing—Cornwall Council should provide a specialist marketing officer to support the Cornwall Libraries to market its services in 2011. Cornwall Council’s Community Intelligence Unit should provide the data to enable Cornwall Libraries to use the trigger points described in the MLA report to help target marketing of all services, not just those related to online services.

8.Technological change—explore opportunities to provide more services in digital formats in order to provide sustainable alternatives to traditional library services.

9.Income generating opportunities from IT.

10.Investment in self service technology—Cornwall Libraries should submit a bid for capital funding to replace and update the public access and self service machines in 2011.

11.Community libraries—Cornwall Libraries should explore a range of options for sustainable models of library provision to rural communities. The libraries at Upton Cross, St Keverne, St Dennis and Stithians should become the pilots for the delivery of library and other council services from sites within those communities; supported by Cornwall Libraries but staffed by local volunteers. A cost benefit analysis should be undertaken to explore replacing some traditional mobile services with a postal or courier alternative combined with a computer access facility within a community location.

12.Volunteers—In order to reduce social isolation among those unable to access library and other council services and to encourage community participation in supporting services in rural communities.

Cornwall Libraries should explore opportunities to work with community transport groups and existing school transport providers across Cornwall, to replace some traditional mobile library services and Home Library Services with transport to libraries.

7. Successes of the Service Review

Greater economy of scales recognised around information services, management services and more streamlined IT support.

A library service that is fit for purpose in an environment of reduced costs but potentially increased demand as the population grows and the “Big Society” approach is embedded.

A service that encompasses other local authority service areas eg Adult Care and Support, Children and Young people.

Improved delivery of service to customers, community engagement, develop co-production and community cohesion.

A more efficient service meeting customer needs.

Greater involvement from community groups in areas where the pilot for Adopt a Library initiative.

Greater opportunities to work with our communities to develop new ways of providing services to local communities.

Staff development and training opportunities and multi skilling staff.

Opportunities for increased income generation through the introduction of a Business and Development Team.

Ongoing consultation with users and non users of the library/OSS eg Performing Arts Library and Specialist collections enables us to ensure we are customer focussed when delivering these specialist Services.

Consistent standard of Service across Cornwall whilst meeting the needs of the local communities.

Cornwall Library Provision

8. The proposals to integrate facilities and services into shared locations would have an impact on employees and customers accessing services. It was therefore vital that a full consultation with affected individuals/organisations took place.

Consultation

9. There was a significant consultation undertaken as part of the development of the integration. This consisted of a six week consultation period with Meetings with union representatives, Library and One Stop Shop staff and mangers, Elected Members and Town and Parish Council in affected areas. A number of meetings with in house services eg property, legal services, facilities management and housing services. Meetings with external partners who use existing facilities and organisations who could share facilities eg CAB (Citizens Advice Bureaux), Volunteer Cornwall, Police, Credit Unions and Working Links.

All proposals had robust equality impact assessments completed against the relocations and where any negative impacts were recognised mitigating actions were also identified to reduce any negative affects from the moves. The proposals were submitted that would have the most limited impact on local communities.

Summary

10. Unlike other areas in the country Cornwall Council worked hard to ensure that a sustainable service could be retained throughout the financial cuts, with a number of improvements to service delivery being recognised.

Benchmarking data draw from “The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy” (CIPFA) website compares Cornwall Council with 54 other Unitary Authorities. See table below which highlights that Cornwall has lower than average numbers of staff per 1,000 population and demonstrates a higher than average hours committed by volunteers across the County.

Measure

Cornwall

Club Average

Number of staff/1,000 population

0.23

0.35

Number of volunteer hours

31,296

3,963

Cornwall Libraries also have the lowest revenue spend per 1,000 population in the South West and spending is at around 50% of the all England average.

The Service is working with partners to maximise the opportunities provided by the Superfast Broadband project. The focus has changed of former Study Support Officers who delivered one to one computer training to people who were not sufficiently confident to attend formal group tuition. In place now is an Online Support Officers Network who work with partners such as BBC First Click, Citizensonline, BT and UKonline and with volunteers to help people to get online. This not only supports the services digital literacy aspirations but also increases the take up of online access to Cornwall Council Services.

Cornwall had a very successful Summer Reading Challenge this year and have begun a successful relationship with young volunteers who listen to the participants reviews of the books they have read for the challenge. Many of the volunteers were former Summer Reading Challenge participants and their continued involvement shows how much they value the benefits of the scheme.

Cornwall Library service is committed to ensuring that provision is sustainable and meets the needs of customers in the County.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012