Balancing the budget 2006/2007 onwards
Our starting point is that everyone in Oxfordshire is entitled to enjoy opportunities to participate in high-quality cultural activities, which encourage creativity and learning.For individuals this is about developing their own abilities and interests, and understanding the world around them.In particular children, whether in school or out of it, should be able to experience a wide range of creative learning opportunities.For communities it is about sharing, enjoying life-enhancing activities together, which encourages a greater sense of cohesion and security.
Most activity in Cultural Services is front-line service delivery, working with the public. Apart from schools, libraries are probably the most visible physical presence the County Council has in local communities.Services regularly consult the public on satisfaction, and comments/complaints are reviewed to plan improvements.A recurrent cause for discontent is the physical condition, size or location of some of our buildings.We recognise that no two people have the same tastes or needs whether for a book, an interest in their family history, or an arts event. Services therefore are be planned to be responsive to the individual.Increasingly we are making use of ICT as one way to access services, with particular strides having been made in web-based library services recently.
Not everyone currently has an equal opportunity to make use of the services we offer. For example rurally isolated communities may not be within easy reach of a public library and are certainly unlikely to be close to a museum. So through the use of our mobile libraries and our cultural loans and outreach service we take the services to them.Some services are not necessarily geared to the needs and interests of all. For example, many young people feel alienated from participation in the cultural lives of their communities, and we have to find ways of engaging them.
Although there are certain services which one would expect to find at any library, we recognise that there are different local needs to which we have to be attuned for example, in the balance of the book stock.All cultural services deal with the widest of age-ranges, from books for babies to recording the reminiscences of the oldest citizens.Traditionally, museums and archives have collected more objects and information about the history of some sectors of the community than others. A lively programme of activities during Black History Month has prompted a growth of interest in the heritage of some minority communities.
For present and future generations to enjoy and understand their heritage, the evidence of that heritage whether objects, written information or even the things people carry in their heads needs to be systematically preserved, organised and made available. How do we ensure that the learning and culture agenda for people of all ages such as a cultural entitlement, and the promotion of creative learning can continue to develop across Directorate, port-folio and Scrutiny Committee boundaries? How is the contribution of Cultural Services to the CYPP secured and demonstrated? [Are these issues which Corporate Governance S Ctte might be asked to look into?]
For the first time in some years we can improve a major town library: 1.2m in the capital programme for a new Thame Library. There remain unmet improvement needs in several other towns (notably Banbury and Bicester). Pegasus Theatre is in the frame to draw down 2.75m of Lottery funding, and later this year we shall be submitting the first stage of an application for Lottery money to develop the Museum Resource Centre at Standlake.An important part of the Councils customer service strategy is to improve public access to information. It is becoming increasingly clear how important a role libraries have to play in achieving this. The first prototype County Council Information Point recently opened in the Central Library foyer, and the next year will see similar developments in local and mobile libraries.Despite recent developments Cultural Services, in common with other County Council services, still have some way to go in making services available through friendly technology. Particular immediate challenges are making heritage resources available on the Web, and a facility for on-line payments to services like the Music Service and the Mill.
The Council is a leading partner in this small but highly effective organisation, originally set up to bid for the European Capital of Culture, for which we were among the six nationally short-listed candidates designated Centres of Culture. Subsequently Oxford Inspires has focused the efforts of various bodies on some specific outcomes, notably securing 750,000 external funding for this years Evolving City programme.They are coordinating the planning of a major series of celebrations throughout the county in 2007, a special year to mark Oxfordshires 1,000th anniversary.[OI has been cited by the Arts Council as a unique and successful example of local cultural cooperation. This could be an instructive S Ctte review topic, both in its own right and perhaps as a model that could be applied in other contexts.]
Known pressures include unidentified efficiency savings of 140K (plus any new targets set this year), the full effect of running Cogges (ca 60K), increased costs of music tuition arising from national change in teachers conditions of service.