Best Value and Better Performance in Libraries

D: Readers’ Responses

D1: Robert Gent

Dear David

A few comments on the Best Value work. I’m afraid I only saw it today so these are the first impressions.

I must say I am very excited by the potential this has for working through the planning process, and Best Value too, subject to a reservation or two which I will list below.

It has made me think, for example, about the vast (by our standards) sums of money which are being poured into PLUS every year, with the aim of obtaining ‘comparable’ data. But what exactly are we comparing with – do we not rather tend to breathe a sigh of relief each year at the ‘proof that people still think we are great: “Please don’t close our library” etc.

[Also] Many authorities (our own included) have adopted a policy of each department contributing to every year of Best Value reviews. Hence we have had to split our service into 5 more or less coherent segments, each accounting for approximately 20% of our spend and plan a review of one in each of the 5 years.

This almost inevitably leads to a focus on activity, rather than aims. At the same time, and as part of a separate Council Plan process, we are having to demonstrate how our service contributes to the achievement of corporate aims for Iifelong learning, sociaI inclusion, etc., but those cross-cutting issues have not been linked explicitly with the BV review programme. Interestingly, the cross-cutting issues which have been identified again are process ones – transport, support services, etc.

Being obliged as we are to break the service down into a number of segments for review purposes, there is no opportunity within the BV process to ask fundamental questions about the role of our entire service. And almost inevitably we will end up with far more than the recommended 15 -20 PIs.

One final issue worth mentioning is the tacit (or is it actually expressed)understanding that reviews will achieve a 2% saving in cost (even though this may be available to plough back into service delivery and not have to be offered up). This again predisposes the review towards an accountancy model.

We will find good use for the work you have done, but I do think it would be even more useful in the context of a whole service review.

I will try to make sure that this work has wide circulation in Derbyshire.

… I hope this is helpful. Congratulations again!

Robert Gent