The Audit Commission in Wales Inspection Team gave the services two stars (out of a possible three) because they found that people who use the services are generally very satisfied with what is on offer. But the independent report says that there is room for improvement.
'Local councils play an important role in encouraging and supporting the cultural life of our communities. Blaenau Gwent provided a good service to its citizens in this context however there is more that could be done to improve. For example; the council needs to take action to deal with falling borrowing of materials from libraries and its failure to meet a number of National Library Standards such as the levels of expenditure on books and the number of visits to libraries. We look to the authority to embrace our report's recommendations to improve their services.'
The inspection report highlights a number of positive features:
* People who use the service are very satisfied
* The libraries provide an important resource of free books and information services
* A wide ranging programme of events is provided at a variety of venues
* Libraries and arts venues are well presented and welcoming
* Literacy standards are being improved through primary school children visiting libraries
However, inspectors also found some other areas that require attention, including:
* Borrowing from libraries is falling
* One theatre is not in use due to structural concerns about the building
* The service could be better marketed, particularly through the internet
Inspectors believe that the Service has uncertain prospects for improvement because:
* Important areas such as heritage, tourism and museums services have not been fully addressed in the council's best value review
* The council's ability to fund future improvements is in doubt
* Little progress is being made on implementing works at libraries and arts venues to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act
Recommendations to help improve the service include:
* Increasing use of the service by a number of means including improving marketing and facilitating on line bookings
* Ensuring that National Standards in terms of the library service are complied with by 2005
* Improving the cost efficiency of the service
*Delivering a more integrated approach to management and the delivery of cultural services
Blaenau Gwent CBC's cultural services covers libraries and the arts and includes a network of seven permanent libraries, mobile and household library services, theatres, a cinema and arts development services. The service, which cost£1,783,540 in 2001/02, employs the equivalent of 50 full time staff and is part of the council's community services directorate.