Thurrock Council - Culture Services Audit 2004
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Thurrock Council - Culture Services Audit 2004

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Inspection report October 2004 Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection Thurrock Borough Council p 2 Thurrock Borough Council - Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection Contents Summary 3 Scoring the service 4 Recommendations 6 Report 7 Context 7 The locality 7 The council 8 The service inspection 8 How good is the service? 10 What links can be clearly illustrated between the council’s cultural services’ ambitions, and the ambition for the local area? 10 How effectively do cultural services contribute to local area priorities and achieve service priorities 11 How good are cultural services at providing a quality user experience? 13 Summary 16 What are the prospects for improvement to the service? 16 Does the council have the capacity and systems to deliver its cultural ambitions and drive improvements in cultural services for all sections of the community? 16 How effectively do the council’s future plans sustain a clear focus on achieving its ambitions for cultural services? 20 Summary 21 Appendices 23 Documents reviewed 23 Reality checks undertaken 23 List of people interviewed 24 Shared Priorities 24 Improving public services 26 Thurrock Borough Council - Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection p 3 Summary 1 Thurrock Borough Council is a unitary authority to the east of London, on the north bank of the Thames. Much of its traditional industry has been concentrated along the 30 kilometres of river frontage. ...

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Inspection report
October 2004
 
 
 
Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection
Thurrock Borough Council
 
p 2Thurrock Borough Council-Cultural Services Whole ServiceInspection  Contents Summary 3 Scoring the service 4 Recommendations 6 Report 7 Context 7 The locality 7 The council 8 The service inspection 8 How good is the service? 10 What links can be clearly illustrated between the councils cultural services ambitions, and the ambition for the local area? 10 How effectively do cultural services contribute to local area priorities and achieve service priorities 11 How good are cultural services at providing a quality user experience? 13 Summary 16 What are the prospects for improvement to the service? 16 Does the council have the capacity and systems to deliver its cultural ambitions and drive improvements in cultural services for all sections of the community? 16 How effectively do the councils future plans sustain a clear focus on achieving its ambitions for cultural services? 20 Summary 21 Appendices 23 Documents reviewed 23 Reality checks undertaken 23 List of people interviewed 24 Shared Priorities 24 Improving public services 26  
 
Thurrock Borough Council 3 p- Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection  
Summary 1Thurrock Borough Council is a unitary authority to the east of London, on the north bank of the Thames. Much of its traditional industry has been concentrated along the 30 kilometres of river frontage. The total population is 143,212 of which 4.7 per cent are from minority ethnic communities. Main settlements include Grays, Aveley, Chadwell St Mary, Corringham, South Ockendon, Stanford-le-Hope and Tilbury, and there are numerous villages, with 60 per cent of the borough lying within the green belt. The Conservative party has recently taken overall control of the council with 28 of the 49 seats. The council had 5,447 full time employees in 2003/04 of whom 2,882 were based in schools. The services that provided the focus for our inspection were the arts, sports, parks, countryside, museums, tourism, heritage, play and libraries. The councils capital expenditure on cultural services is £1.4 million in 2004/05 and the net revenue expenditure is estimated to be £6.2 million in 2004/05.
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p 4Thurrock Borough Council-Cultural Services Whole ServiceInspection  Scoring the service 5We have assessed the council as providing a fair one-star service that has uncertain prospects for improvement. Our judgements are based on the evidence obtained during the inspection and are outlined below. Scoring chart1: Thurrock Borough Council - Cultural Services Prospects for improvement?            Poor Fair Good Excellent Excellent
Promising Uncertain
A good service?
a fair service that has uncertain prospects for improvement
Poor  6The service is fair because:  local surveys show that customers are increasingly satisfied, for example with parks and open spaces and leisure centres;  effective consultation is leading to some services being better tailored to customers requirements, for example with the mobile library route being changed to reflect customers preferences;  there is commitment to culturally-led social regeneration, with the cultural strategy building upon the solid foundations of the community strategy; and  services are delivering against local and national priorities through a range of initiatives and are achieving some good outcomes for customers. However:  the satisfaction levels expressed by local people show that all cultural services are below the average of other unitary councils;  parts of the service, for example sports development, are currently basic and not yet fully playing their part in supporting community and council priorities;  and promotion so that all services arethere is a lack of effective marketing not fully tailored to the needs of local people and people are not aware of the range and quality of services available to them;  the council is starting from a low base as it has been late in appreciating the value of cultural services to regeneration and social inclusion, and outcomes are only just starting to become evident;
 1 The scoring chart displays performance in two dimensions. The horizontal axis shows how good the service or function is now, on a scale ranging from no stars for a service that is poor (at the left-hand end) to three stars for an excellent service (right-hand end). The vertical axis shows the improvement prospects of the service, also on a four-point scale.
 
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Thurrock Borough Council- Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection 5 p   there is an insufficiently joined up approach both strategically and at service delivery level; and 2  service planning is variable and not all targets are SMART.
The prospects for improvement are uncertain because:  cultural services are not yet fully effective in improving services that matter to local people like health, for example heart disease and teenage pregnancies;  the council has only recently started to use cultural services as a tool towards tackling community and council priorities and sustained improvement across all services is not certain;  was no approved cultural strategy in placeat the time of the inspection there to drive integrated improvement across all cultural services;  some of the relationships with regional partners are not fully effective;  the use of exacting service targets to drive improvement is limited and the use of performance management is not fully embedded; and  the separate services of culture (for example parks, sports, arts, heritage) work generally in isolation. However:  services are improving with local people appreciating the increased feeling of safety in parks and the improvements to libraries;  success in levering in external funds is facilitating improvements in some sports services, landscape and heritage features and especially in arts generated projects; and  specific attention is given to providing cultural services to the diverse communities of Thurrock with over 20 community forums with delegated budgets.  since the inspection the new political administration has agreed to formally consider adopting the cultural strategy.
 
 2SMART  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound
p 6Thurrock Borough Council-Cultural Services Whole ServiceInspection  
Recommendations 8To rise to the challenge of continuous improvement, councils need inspection reports that offer practical pointers for improvement. In this context, the inspection team makes the following recommendations to be implemented within a year:  Improve service planning and target setting across all services so that staff and the people of Thurrock clearly understand what the services are trying to achieve and what standards of service can be expected.  Drive improvement in cultural services linked closely to the councils corporate priorities.  Develop a marketing strategy to embrace and co-ordinate the activities of all cultural services, as part of a wider corporate marketing approach.  good practice across cultural services andIntroduce mechanisms to share the council so that improvements to customers are maximised.  Adopt a SMART cultural strategy that is in accordance with the new councils objectives and tightly linked to integrated performance management.  Establish improved senior councillor and officer links with local and regional agencies, with the specific intention of driving improvement within Thurrock. 9We would like to thank the staff of Thurrock Borough Council, particularly cultural services staff, who made us welcome and who met our requests efficiently and courteously.  Philip Sayers Gillian Bannister Inspectors Dates of inspection: 10th-13thAugust 2004 Email: ph-sayers@audit-commission.gov.uk g-bannister@audit-commission.gov.uk   
 For more information please contact Audit Commission CentrtroolFlaR geoi n 1s   Bridge Business Park Bridge Park Road Thurmaston Leicester LE4 8BL www.audit-commission.gov.uk Telephone: 0116 269 3311  
 
Thurrock Borough Council- Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection p 7  
Report Context 10This report has been prepared by the Audit Commission (the Commission) following an inspection under Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, and issued in accordance with its duty under Section 13 of the 1999 Act. The locality 11river Thames to the east of London andThe borough of Thurrock lies on the covers an area of almost 166 square kilometres. Being both on the river and adjacent to London, Thurrock has good communication links including the M25, the high speed rail links leading to the channel tunnel, the local railway line providing direct access to central London, the Port of Tilbury and the City of London Airport. 12The borough is part of the Thames Gateway, an area identified by government as having significant development potential, and for which substantial central funding is available. Over 18,000 new homes are to be built in the borough, and the population is expected to grow by about 50 per cent in the next ten years. An urban development corporation (UDC) is in the process of being established to lead substantial regeneration in the area. 13Much of the traditional industry has been concentrated along the 30 kilometres of river frontage incorporating Tilbury, Grays and Purfleet. Thurrock is also home to the Lakeside shopping centre which has over 300 shops under one roof and attracts a high number of retail tourists. 14The majority of the population lives in the conurbations of Grays, Stanford-le-Hope/Corringham, South Ockendon/Belhus, Tilbury, and the developing community of Chafford. However, with 60 per cent of the borough lying within the green belt there are numerous villages. The population of 143,212 is relatively young, with almost a quarter of residents being under the age of 18. Seven per cent are under-5s. More than 9,000 people are over 75 and this figure is projected to increase significantly by 2011. Residents from ethnic minority groups constitute 4.7 per cent of the population, but this profile ranges across wards from 1.9 per cent to 14.5 per cent, and across schools from 5 per cent to 28 per cent. Over 30 different languages are spoken. 1563 per cent of the population work in the borough, mostly in wholesale and retail distribution, and the manufacturing sector. Unemployment stands at 2.6 per cent compared with the national average of 2.4 per cent, but varies across the borough with over 6 per cent unemployment in Tilbury and Belhus. Overall educational qualifications are low with the last census recording that 34.4 per cent of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 stated that they had no educational qualifications, compared to a national average of 29.1 per cent.
p 8Thurrock Borough Council-Cultural Services Whole ServiceInspection  16The index of multiple deprivation (2004) ranks the council as 122ndout of 354 local authorities.3This masks the high levels of deprivation that exist in some wards, and it is in these wards that the highest levels of crime and anti-social behaviour and poorer health occur. Thurrock has some of the highest incidences in South Essex of coronary heart disease, strokes, cancer and teenage pregnancies. The council 17The council comprises 49 councillors with the Conservative party having recently taken overall control with 28 seats. The remaining seats are 19 Labour and 2 Independent. 18In April 1998 the council was established as a unitary authority and has adopted the cabinet and leader model of governance. To more effectively engage with local people, community forums with some delegated funding have been established across the borough. 19For the financial year 2004/05, the councils revenue budget is £162 million. The council has a history of overspending in services other than culture. 20The council has negotiated a public service agreement (PSA) with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), and received a £893,000 grant. If the 12 PSA targets are achieved by March 2006, it will receive a further £3.4 million. The PSA targets reflect the shared priorities of safer communities and improving the quality of life and educational opportunities for young people, as well as improving the cost effectiveness of the council. A specific target for cultural services is to improve young peoples access to cultural opportunities through the theatre and the arts. Cultural services can also contribute effectively to other PSA targets such as those of reducing truancy and re-offending by young people. The service inspection 21The council has identified culture as having an important and significant effect on the quality of peoples lives by developing personal capital (developing skills and confidence) and social capital (strengthening networks and capacity). The critical role in assisting other agendas such as regeneration, health, education, crime prevention, and diversity is acknowledged. Culture is interpreted in Thurrock as covering the arts, sports, parks, countryside, museums, tourism, heritage, play and libraries. We accordingly focused on:  arts development;  the Thameside complex including the museum;  the library service (comprising ten static libraries and a mobile library);  heritage sites;  the 72 parks and open spaces, including within them 64 playground sites;  the five leisure centres including three indoor swimming pools and indoor and outdoor sports provision;  sports development, and  tourism.
 3 Indices of Deprivation 2004 produced by the Social Disadvantage Research Centre (SDRC), Department of Social Policy and Social Research, University of Oxford for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. 
 
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Thurrock Borough Council- Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection p 9
 The services inspected are mainly located in the libraries and heritage department and in neighbourhood services, both of which are part of the community services directorate. The exceptions are sports development and the play service which are part of the education directorate, and country parks which is part of the regulatory services department. The councils capital expenditure on cultural services is £1.4 million in 2004/05.The total net revenue expenditure is estimated to be £6.2 million in 2004/05.
p 10Thurrock Borough Council-Cultural Services Whole ServiceInspection  How good is the service? What links can be clearly illustrated between the councils cultural services ambitions, and the ambition for the local area? 23how ambitions for cultural services support ambitions forInspectors look to see the local area and evidence that the ambitions are focused on improving quality of life for all sections of the community by balancing national, regional and local priorities. 24Inspectors also look for evidence that the councils cultural services support and contribute to shared priorities.4 25Strategies to ensure that cultural services play their full part in the councils vision and priorities are in the process of emerging. They are being built on the solid foundations of the community strategyAspire, which was published in November 2003. This 20 year partnership strategy is well grounded in extensive consultation and has six themes through which improvement in quality of life is to be delivered:  aspiration;  safety;  prosperity;  inclusion;  regeneration; and  energy and health. These align to the shared priorities agreed between the government and the local government association and the council has taken three of these themes as its priorities. These areAir:  aspiration;  inclusion; and  regeneration. The corporate vision is that Thurrock will be a place for enterprise and skills which builds upon the heritage and prosperity of the River Thames and welcomes new opportunities for trade. It will be a place where people feel included and when our diverse communities can build a safe, healthy, vibrant area in which they are proud to live, work and play.Culture has an increasingly high profile, contributing to all theAspirethemes, and particularly toAir, with strong corporate emphasis now being placed on culturally-led social regeneration to help fulfil its vision. 26The council is late in developing a cultural strategy and the overall approach is insufficiently co-ordinated. The strategy has been drafted and is seen by the council as the vehicle to co-ordinate and align the strategies within cultural
 4Shared priorities have been agreed between local and central government and are set out in Appendix 2 to this report.
 
Thurrock Borough Council- Cultural Services Whole Service Inspection p 11  services with the corporate strategic direction. Its nine sub-strategies5reflect Aspireprinciples, but these have not yet been pulled together into an integrated whole and there remains a need to tie together the key strategic elements and promote continued joint working. Service plans are variable and not all targets are SMART. 27The draft cultural strategy is firmly grounded in the underlying principles ofAspire and was formulated in consultation with a wide range of partners, following an innovative cultural visioning event to raise aspirations. However its status was unclear at the time of this inspection as the new political administration had yet to consider the strategy and stated that, only having been in office two months, it was too early for them to form a view about cultural services. Since the inspection the administration has agreed to formally consider adopting the cultural strategy. 28The council is ready to take necessary decisions to avoid dissipating efforts and resources. This is evident in the establishment of a leisure trust to run leisure facilities, and further demonstrated by the decision not to plan any additional investment in these leisure facilities. The council is also clear about the level of museum service that it wishes to provide. It accepts that, with just one museum, it will not match the visitor numbers of authorities that are top performers in this area. It aims instead to provide a low cost but active museum service geared to meeting local needs. How effectively do cultural services contribute to local area priorities and achieve service priorities 29Having considered the ambitions that the council has set for the service, inspectors make an assessment of how well the council is meeting these ambitions. This includes an assessment of performance against specific service standards and targets and the councils approach to measuring whether it is actually delivering what it set out to do. Inspectors look for evidence of outcomes and impacts for various sections of the community and consider the councils track record of delivering continuous service improvement. 30Cultural services in Thurrock contribute effectively to local priorities through a range of initiatives showing innovation and good practice linking toAspire. Insufficient strategic co-ordination means that these initiatives are not fully joined up in their approach. Opportunities for learning and for building on what has been achieved are not maximised. This is illustrated by the many initiatives addressing the needs of young people but operating in a degree of isolation. 31variable, for example the targets for youngAchievement against targets has been peoples access to the theatre were not reached in 2003/04, while targets for attendance at library outreach activities were well exceeded. Aspiration 32There is an active approach to increasing both community and individual confidence and community pride. These are seen as essential to the raising of aspiration within the borough. Improvements have been made to play areas, parks and open areas with engagement with local residents, for example the popular and well-used Grays beach. On the Broadway Estate in Tilbury a misused grassed area has been transformed into an attractive space that caters for the residents identified priorities of enclosed play provision for under-fives
 5 The nine sub-strategies cover: the arts; libraries, heritage and museums; tourism; cultural and creative industries; design and planning; countryside, parks, playgrounds and open spaces; sport; and youth services and play.