On the Radar – yet still no intervention

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is a non-departmental public body in England with a remit to promote improvement and innovation in the area of museums, libraries and archives. They also help the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) superintend local authorities’ running of library services. In a letter to the law firm who have launched a challenge to the Secretary of State for Culture, the DCMS say that “The Secretary of State works with the MLA to monitor and help library services. MLA teams work with public library service providers and engage closely with a number of authorities felt to be in most need of support and guidance.” They also say that “The Secretary of State’s team at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport meets regularly with the MLA to consider issues arising in relation to library services.”

Below are excerpts relating to Doncaster from the MLA’s Team North reports about Doncaster Libraries and Information Services, which gives an interesting timeline of events. As you will see, the MLA have been aware for at least 18 months of the severe problems with Doncaster libraries. (You can download the spreadsheets using the links provided.) It should be assumed that the DCMS and Secretary of State have also therefore been aware of the serious problems. There has still been no intervention from the Secretary of State despite Doncaster being on a DCMS list of high-risk local authorities of particular concern: Blackburn with Darwen; Isle of Wight; Oxfordshire; Doncaster; Brent; Croydon; Lewisham; Dorset; Gloucestershire and Somerset.

October 2009 (link)

Team North Yorkshire and Humber Projects
Title: Culture and Sport Strategic Dialogue – Doncaster
Description: Undertake CSSD to coordinate and add strategic value to individual agency interventions and IDeA improvement programme
Timescale: 9.2009 – 3.2010
Partners: ACE; EH; SE; GOYH; Doncaster Council
Status: Agreed
Notes: Initial meeting diaried

November 2009 (link)

Yorkshire & Humberside Overview
Title: Culture and Sport Strategic Dialogue – Doncaster
Description: Undertake CSSD to coordinate and add strategic value to individual agency interventions and IDeA improvement programme
Timescale: 9.2009 – 3.2010
Partners: ACE; EH; SE; GOYH; Doncaster Council
Status: On track
Notes: Initial meeting held and approach agreed

February 2010 (link)

North Engagement Summary – Update
MLA has been monitoring developments in Doncaster (CAA; CEO; NI performance; &).  In addition to regular keep in touch meetings, the focus of our activity is through our lead role in YCAP’s local government improvement work – in February we undertook a CSSD with Doncaster.  The authority has also commissioned an independent review of library services.

April 2010 (link)

North Engagement Summary – Update
Risk: Following ongoing performance Doncaster has been the subject of an Audit commission Corporate Governance Inspection.  MLA remain in regular contact with the council to monitor the impact of this on cultural services, including through the CSSD process.

May 2010 (link)

North Engagement Summary – Update
Engagement with authorities and organisations

Risk: The Field team continue to manage relationships authorities on a rolling and regular basis.  Currently we are supporting the following authorities shaping new strategies: ***; Doncaster; ****

Intelligence gathering and strategic relationship building

Local Government & CSSD: Doncaster and *** – Ongoing.

June 2010 (link)

Peer Review
Engagement with authorities and organisations

The Field team continue to manage relationships authorities on a rolling and regular basis.  Currently we are supporting the following authorities shaping new strategies: ***; Doncaster; *****

July 2010 (link)

Peer Review
Engagement with authorities and organisations: The Field team continue to manage relationships authorities on a rolling and regular basis.  Currently we are supporting the following authorities shaping new strategies: ***; Doncaster; ***

September 2010 (link)

Team North Project Risk and Engagement Update
Doncaster: Regular contact; Support for implementing library review in progress. £10,000
Project risk: green (On Track, will deliver.  Or Complete)
Authority risk: Red (High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change)

October 2010 (link)

Team North Project Risk and Engagement Update
Doncaster: Support for implementing library review in progress. £10,000
Green (On Track, will deliver.  Or Complete)

LA Overview
Small steps.  Making progress.  Ongoing significant largescale challenges council wide. Regular contact with MLA and MDOs.

December 2010 (link)

Team North Project Risk and Engagement Update
Place: Doncaster
Details: Support for implementing library review in progress.
Lead: (AS) Anna Siddall – Regional Manager (Yorkshire & Humber)
Investment: £10,000

November 2010: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change
December 2010: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change

Previously a poor performing service.  Now taking action to turn things round and meet C&E, but is aware of the distance to travel to keep this transformation on track, particularly at the same time as wider cuts.  MLA has supported the council to produce a strategy; service point assessment matrix; community consultation and member briefings.  Strategy now to go to Cabinet in January. Subject to approval it commits to recruiting HoS; investment in training of staff; rationalisation of service points – relocation rather than loss where appropriate and investing in remaining poor building stock.  The service is likely to come under different directorate and officer when senior staff review is completed. Uncertainty as to which of remaining library trained staff will take voluntary redundancy.  Council has attracted interest of national library campaigners, with some local campaigning.  Participating in Yorkshire-wide review of mobile services.  Museums undertaking MA-funded collections rationalisation.  Admission charges introduced – model needs refinement.  Poor staff capacity.

January 2011 (link)

LA  Overview: Doncaster
Dec 2010: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change
Jan 2011: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change

High level of community, political and press interest in proposals. Remains a risk but working closely with MLA, and our consultant’s work has been well received.  No decisions on proposals made yet – due to cabinet in next week. Intend 90-day public consultation on plans in parallel with staff consultation. Previously a poor performing service.  Now taking action to turn things round and meet C&E – implementing significant changes as part of strategic plan.  Authority is  aware of the distance to travel to keep this transformation on track, particularly at the same time as wider cuts.   Museums undertaking MA-funded collections rationalisation and MDO-supported sustainability review.  Potential to become part of current leisure-trust.  Poor staff capacity.

February 2011 (link)

Local Authority Engagement: Doncaster
Jan 2011: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change
Feb 2011: Red – High uncertainty and / or change. And / or poor capacity to address change

Cuts of 25%-30% across council. New strategic library plan was approved by cabinet 4/2.  This decision is likely to be subject to formal scrutiny. Council is proposing move to a service model of 12 core libraries and additional community infrastructure developed from other 14 libraries; staff restructure including reinstating Head of Service post; community outreach activity. Attracted significant media attention.  Public meetings already in underway, but a formal consultation process to identify community options and actions to mitigate impact on individual communities will take place before any new infrastructure is implemented.  Started to review how archives operate day-to-day (aquisitions, cataloging and fit with wider services across the council &c). Museums intended to maintain public offer.  Over past year have been working to stabilise budget position.  Now are looking to achieve savings through alterations to opening hours, to enable venue to be accessed by different audiences and reductions in specialist curator posts, leaving social history, archaology, arts, conservator, registrar and education team and income generation (particularly weddings/corporate events). Currently receiving support of Renaissance / MDOs to explore opportunities and identify action plan for income generation.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Update and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On the Radar – yet still no intervention

  1. Pingback: Voices for the Library» Blog Archive » MLA assessments on local authorities in the north of England

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s