Issue - meetings

Customer services and libraries

Meeting: 13/10/2016 - Cabinet (Item 41)

41 Customer services and libraries pdf icon PDF 596 KB

To agree the model for future operation of customer services and libraries across the county.

Additional documents:


The cabinet member contracts and assets introduced the report. He stated that councillors were grateful for the letters received from members of the public in terms of support for their particular library, and this was considered in terms of the provision of these services across the county.


The assistant director communities stated that the pressures on the council budget and the need for safeguarding were well rehearsed. She explained that all services had to be tested in terms of their relevance and contribution to their community. It was also necessary to take account of changing needs within the community, changing technologies and better ways of working.


The savings target in the medium term financial strategy for customer services and libraries was based on centrally retained services though subsequent consultations had shown strong support for retention of libraries. The research for the needs assessments showed that 23% of the population were regular library users, but more people recognised libraries as a good thing even if they did not use them. The assistant director also commented on the useful feedback received from the General Overview and Scrutiny Committee to help inform recommendations.


The assistant director drew attention to the fact that the recommendations in the report would not fully meet the savings target. Work would continue on ways to use library buildings to assist other service areas to deliver services more efficiently.


A group leader asked what mitigation would be put in place against the withdrawal of face to face customer services in the market towns. He also asked whether the further efficiencies would include redundancies.


The assistant director responded that the impact assessment identified the types and levels of impact, with less than 6,000 face to face queries in market towns for council tax and benefits. A system of appointments were to be introduced for these queries for at least 12 months and information would be gathered to help assess the particular needs of users. The revised website would be clearer and easier to use with better online help for users making payments, phone contact would continue, and face to face services in Hereford. Efficiencies were not redundancies but based on change of practice within the services for example sending a text or email to remind users of overdue books rather than letters. Any staff impacted in the longer term would be supported through redeployment in the first instance. The cost of any redundancies if needed would depend on the work history of the individual member of staff.


A scrutiny chair stressed the importance of having professional library staff to back up volunteers or staff from other services and asked if HALO would have access to professional support in delivering services at Bromyard.


The assistant director communities responded that existing and new community libraries would receive support including training and part of the county book stock system. She gave the example of Leintwardine community library that had flourished and shown a greater sense of ownership and involvement.


A group leader noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41