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'TWO STARS' FOR BUCKINGHAMSHIRE CC'S LIBRARY SERVICE

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The library service provided by Buckinghamshire CC is good and has excellent prospects for improvement, according t...
The library service provided by Buckinghamshire CC is good and has excellent prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service two stars* because they provide a wide range of services and methods of accessing those services, buildings are bright and well maintained, books and other materials are in good condition and attractively displayed. Councillors, managers and front line staff are enthusiastic and committed.

Bill Sanderson, assistant director, southern region said:

'Most Buckinghamshire libraries are bright and attractive and a pleasure to use. The council and the library service have recently implemented significant internal change in order to target more resources on delivering improved services to their customers. We are confident that this service will continue to improve in the future.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

-- Wide range of services provided from mostly attractive and well maintained libraries.

-- A range of stock in good condition and available in many formats, for example books, CDs, DVDs and Playstation software.

-- Track record of partnership working to deliver service improvement.

-- Frontline staff, managers and councillors who are customer focussed and committed to developing the service.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

-- High Wycombe library is in an inadequate and poorly located building.

-- The way that public access computers are provided does not encourage use by inexperienced or hesitant customers.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

-- Improving access to services by targeting resources at increased opening hours, and making casual use of public access computers easier.

-- Providing high quality, customer focussed services by developing services to children and young people, expanding the capacity of the housebound service and improving the depth and range of books and other materials available.

-- Providing a new or totally refurbished library for the people of High Wycombe through participation in the Phoenix Project partnership or, by implementing an independent option if this partnership will not deliver the new library in the near future.

Buckinghamshire library service has a budget of£6.657m for 2002/03. This enables it to provide services through a network of 35 libraries, a fleet of four mobile libraries and a home library service. The home library service delivers books and other materials to, for example, residential homes and sheltered accomomodation in 122 locations. There are also individual home visits by volunteers to housebound people.

NOTES:

1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and members, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission inspection service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to improve local services over the next five years. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review all of their services over the next five years in order to identify and achieve continual improvements in local services.

5. Further details about the role of the Audit Commission can be obtained from - http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk

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