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BERWICK'S LEISURE AND CULTURE SERVICES ARE 'FAIR' BUT COULD DO BETTER

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The arts, cultural and leisure services supported by Berwick-upon-Tweed BC are 'fair' but have 'uncertain prospects...
The arts, cultural and leisure services supported by Berwick-upon-Tweed BC are 'fair' but have 'uncertain prospects' for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

On a scale from zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave these services - which include tourism, spending on the arts, parks and leisure facilities- a 'fair' one star rating. The Council does not know if these services are satisfying local demand or if they are providing value for money.

Geoff Norris, Audit Commission senior manager, said:

'Although people who use the services are generally satisfied, use of some services by local people is low. The council has yet to decide on the future of some of these services but it has started to challenge existing arrangements including its contracts with other providers and how services should be provided. It is also looking to improve the way in which it consults with local people to get a better understanding of what they want.'

The inspectors found:

. Use of leisure facilities by local people is low but overall usage is increasing.

. Current procurement arrangements do not follow modern procurement practices.

. The council has yet to decide on the future of some cultural services.

However:

. The council supports and helps local groups to develop their own projects.

. Cultural services are working in a variety of partnerships to deliver improved performance.

To help the service improve, inspectors recommended that the council should:

. Ensure that partnership working adds value to the achievement of local priorities.

. Improve its engagement with local community, partners and other stakeholders.

. Improve the way it monitors and manages the performance of these services.

The council provides a broad range of cultural services to Berwick communities and visitors to the area, both directly and through supporting partnerships. The budget for the service in 2006/07 is£1.8m.

Copies of the report are available from the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk/reports

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