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CASTLE MORPETH'S CULTURE AND LEISURE SERVICES ARE 'FAIR'

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The culture and leisure services supported by Castle Morpeth BC are 'fair' and have 'promising prospects' to improv...
The culture and leisure services supported by Castle Morpeth BC are 'fair' and have 'promising prospects' to improve, 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 the service one star. The services covered include tourism, spending on the arts, parks and leisure facilities. The council delivers a number of effective outreach projects in community-based venues and there are good projects to improve the outdoor environment in the area. However the quality, usage and customer satisfaction with indoor leisure facilities are all low.

Geoff Norris, Audit Commission senior manager, said: 'Good use is being made of partnership working and external funding to improve these services. There is strong cross-party support for the service and high quality and committed staff are helping to improve user satisfaction. However, the Council still needs to improve its understanding of local needs and it does not yet know if the service is providing value for money for local people.'

The inspectors found:

. The service has clear aims for the future with a comprehensive framework of plans in place.

. There is an effective performance management framework, linking cultural services to corporate priorities, with challenging targets for delivery.

. The council has invested resources in the service to increase its sustainability.

However,

. The council does not have a clear vision for tourism and how this contributes to improving the economic vitality of the area.

. Satisfaction with leisure and arts services is lower than most other district councils.

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

. improve the understanding of local needs

. develop its approach to delivering value for money

Cultural services are provided by the Neighbourhood, Regeneration and Culture Directorate. The service has eight full-time and 22 part-time staff with a revenue budget of£1.75m. Services provided include two leisure centres, town and country parks, a tourist information centre, craft centre and museum. The service also manages a number of environmental improvement initiatives and sport based social inclusion projects.

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

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