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WILTSHIRE'S CULTURAL SERVICES RATED 'GOOD' AND LIKELY TO GET BETTER

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The cultural services provided by Wiltshire CC are 'good' and have promising prospects for improvement, according t...
The cultural services provided by Wiltshire CC are 'good' and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

On a scale of zero to three stars, the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service a two star rating. This was because the cultural services provided by the council, such as libraries, museums, arts and sports development, are generally of a high quality and meet users' needs with above average levels of satisfaction. The council has particular strengths in its work to support the provision of cultural activity by others, especially its work with museums and the arts. It recognises the need to continue to improve heritage services and is committed to providing a new record office and history centre in partnership with Swindon BC.

Melanie Watson, Audit Commission senior manager, said: 'The cultural services provided by the council are generally very good and meet the needs of users. Access to these services is improving, especially in more rural communities, in line with the council's ambitions to increase access and participation in cultural activities and opportunities. The service also makes a positive contribution to people's enjoyment of the environment, such as through access to the countryside. The council now needs to establish clear longer-term ambitions to increase the impact cultural services have on the community's key priorities - especially health, adult learning opportunities and the Wiltshire economy.'

The inspectors found:

--Libraries are improving and becoming more customer- and community-focused.

--The council is providing a wide range of cultural activity for young people.

--Good partnership work exists, helping community and voluntary organisations to provide cultural services, especially in heritage and arts.

--The advice and support given by the council to independent museums in the county is helping to achieve a sustained increase in visitors.

--The council has a track record of delivering improvement.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations. These include:

--establishing an improved understanding of who the service users are;

--ensuring all of the service is available electronically;

--deciding the role local libraries will play in developing a network of local service points; and

--providing better co-ordination between different cultural providers within the county to maximise the benefits of closer joint working and partnership.

The cultural services assessed in this inspection include libraries and archives, provision for the arts and arts development, tourism, parks and open spaces, built heritage, museums and galleries and sports development. Partner organisations that provide cultural services within Wiltshire include the county council, district councils, town and parish councils, voluntary and community organisations and the private sector.

Copies of the report are available from Wiltshire CC or on the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog responsible for ensuring that public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively. Our remit covers more than 12,000 bodies in England, which between them spend over£100 billion of public money each year.

We are active in local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue services and consequently have objective evidence on the overall impact of public services on users.

In addition to making sure that taxpayers receive value for money, our aim is to provide impartial information on the quality of public services. We also act as a force for improvement by providing practical recommendations and spreading best practice.

We are committed to working in partnership with other regulators and to ensuring that our own activities also represent value for the taxpayer.

Further details about the Commission can be obtained from its website www.audit-commission.gov.uk

For further information please contact:

Callum Collins, Communications Manager (Southern)

Tel: 0117 901 8883

Email : ca-collins@audit-commission.gov.uk

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