Plans to outsource Wrexham’s Libraries, Heritage and Archives Services into a new Culture Trust are being scrapped.
Previously there were plans to hand control of Wrexham Council’s libraries, to an outside Trust. Initially the proposal was to partner with a South Wales Trust, but local councillors were unhappy with that so a local Trust was explored. One large local community trust branded the ‘Wrexham Culture Trust’ would have seen the heritage services, including Wrexham Museum, be placed under its control along with all libraries, community centres and the new ‘Arts Hub’ OW Peoples Market centre.
On Tuesday the Executive Board of the Council will be asked to change direction, from looking to south wales, then exploring a local option to go back to the start and keep things in-house.
Councillors will be asked to agree to “not proceed with the development of a NPDO/Trust to manage library services”, and “retain the management of Heritage & Archives Services, Libraries and Community Resource Centres, as in-house services.”
The new ‘arts hub’ Peoples Market/Oriel Wrexham will still be run as an external trust and the Executive Board will likely green-light its creation.
Cllr Hugh Jones, the Lead Member for People, Communities and Partnerships at Wrexham Council explained the change of plans, “As with any decision you make in business and in local government you keep the decisions under review. There have been very significant changes to the structures and management, with reshaping of services at Wrexham Council since July 2015. As a result of that review, it is now better to keep the management of those services in house.”
“At this moment in time the best way and the way to keep the most money to be spent on the front line, at the sharp end, is to keep the services in house.”
“It is not sensible to continue with a decision come what may.”
The report to Councillors outlines some of the changes in circumstance and calculations. It was thought an external trust could generate further income better than the Council, but ‘it is unlikely that the other sources of available income are at the level that was first anticipated’, the report notes ’employer pension costs are very likely to be increased as a result of the transfer to a trust’ and the new ‘lean’ management at Wrexham Council is referred to with a Trust possibly having a larger management structure than when it is kept in house.
(NNDR = Non-Domestic Rates, or Business Rates)
The report concludes, “Taking into account the outcome of both the legal and financial review, it is no longer financially viable at this time to proceed with the formation of an independent NPDO/Trust to deliver the Council’s Library, Heritage and Archives services and that the most cost-effective option at this point in time is to retain these services within the Council.”
We asked Cllr Jones if he still supported the concept of a trust model despite the change in direction, “Yes. The most suitable body for the arts is a trust model. The reason for that is arts trusts have greater ability to generate income than having them in house, there are numerous successful arts trusts as examples.”
Cllr Jones explained that for the Arts Hub there is ongoing work to ‘identify appropriate partners to give advice’ but the actual shape and format of the trust has not yet been decided upon, “There are a number of trust models and we want to make sure we identify the most successful. Work is well underway”.