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WINCHESTER CITY'S GUILDHALL SERVICE IS 'FAIR'

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The Guildhall is a nineteenth century grade II listed building and is a venue for commercial, civic, council and co...
The Guildhall is a nineteenth century grade II listed building and is a venue for commercial, civic, council and community functions.

A best value inspection of the venue found the council is providing a fair service, but prospects for improvement are uncertain, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service one star mainly because there is a continuing lack of strategic direction for the future of the venue,

Peter Wylie, regional director, Southern Region Best Value Inspection Service, said:

'Although the Guildhall is run well and customer satisfaction levels are high, we believe the council's lack of understanding about its fundamental purpose means prospects for improvement are uncertain. There is an urgent need for this issue to be tackled. We also recommend Winchester nurture a service culture at the Guildhall through developing performance information and financial measurement, control and reporting.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- The inspectors found high levels of customer satisfaction with those who use the service

- The Guildhall attracts a range of users which reflect its broad civic, community and commercial aims

- Users have commended staff for being professional and highly committed

- The Guildhall is a public building which is kept spotlessly clean

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- The management of the service has been adversely affected by staff absence. low morale and high turnover

- Although the Guildhall is a public facility, physical access is restricted and external signs are inadequate

- The Guildhall lacks strategic direction, and has not addressed how to widen the use of its facilities

- The service lacks a performance management culture

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

- Re-evaluate, clarify and publicise the purpose of the Guildhall

- Develop a strategically well-directed service which reflects local and council priorities

- Improve people management within the service by evaluating and enhancing the morale and motivation levels of current staff

Within the Guildhall the council employs 12 permanent staff who are supplemented by seasonal staff when the need arises. Expenditure at the Guildhall for 2001/02 is forecast to be£1.6m, and when the income of£1.1m is deducted, the net cost is projected to be£522,000.

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