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TWO STARS FOR MANCHESTER'S CULTURAL SERVICES

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The cultural services provided by Manchester City Council are 'good' and are likely to improve, according to an ind...
The cultural services provided by Manchester City Council are 'good' and are likely to improve, according to an independent report released by the Audit Commission.

On a scale from zero to three stars the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars. This was because the Council has a good understanding of local needs and is delivering its cultural services to reflect these. Partnership working is strong and being used effectively to address health inequalities and to contribute to the economic vitality of the city.

Clive Portman, Audit Commission senior manager said: 'Cultural services in Manchester contribute well to local priorities. A range of imaginative and innovative approaches are being used to create a vibrant cultural environment which is being enjoyed by the area's diverse population, including people from minority communities and young people. However, the council needs to know more about all of its users and non-users so that it can target its activity effectively and it also needs to demonstrate effectively that these services are providing value for money to the community.'

The inspectors found:

--The Council is an effective cultural leader and has strong corporate and political support for its cultural ambitions;

--Cultural services can demonstrate a significant track record in recent years that has resulted in a range of new and improved cultural venues and service improvements that users recognise;

--Effective use of new technology is extending access to services for local people, notably through the development of libraries as community access points; and

--Residents are generally satisfied with their cultural services and make good use of them.

However

--Physical access to cultural facilities is mixed and opening hours do not in all cases meet national standards; and

--Performance management is underdeveloped, including a lack of targets to show what impact the Council wants to achieve and so demonstrating the success of cultural activity will be difficult.

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

--Improve the way it focuses on its users of cultural services to ensure that delivery of services meets their needs;

--Raise performance standards by reviewing its performance management systems; and

--Develop the capacity of cultural services to deliver future improvement.

In 2005/06 the City Council's cultural services revenue budget totalled almost£30 million, with a workforce of 735 full time equivalent staff. These deliver a wide range of cultural and leisure services in 23 libraries, a theatre, the city gallery, 3 historic halls, 8 community indoor facilities, 5 community sports centres, 167 parks and a number of other leisure venues including the world class aquatics centre and Sportcity facilities.

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

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