Visits to local libraries decrease

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Visits to East Renfrewshire’s libraries have dropped for the second year running.

But the number of books borrowed by children and adults has risen, according to a new report.

East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure’s end of year review revealed that use of leisure facilities hit a five-year high last year.

And the number of people attending theatre shows in the local authority rose by a quarter to 16,276.

It all comes after the Trust was bailed out by council chiefs earlier this year when bosses projected a £277,000 overspend.

The council was forced to write a ‘letter of comfort’ to ensure the Trust was able to continue providing services in sports facilities, libraries and community spaces.

In the new end of year report, Mhairi Shaw, the council’s director of education, said: “During the year East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure Trust (ERCLT) forecast that it would be unable to remain within budget for 2017/18. Accordingly, the council allocated additional resources to ensure that the planned level of services could be maintained.

“The final financial position was improved from the forecast and allowed for a prudent level of reserves to be retained as well as a reduction in the level of additional resource received from the council.”

Despite being willing to hand over £277,000, the council ended-up giving £225,000, which covered the overspend.

That funding played a part in ensuring that leisure centre attendances were five per cent up on 2016/17, while gym use rose by 10 per cent.

Customer satisfaction rates with community facilities including cleanliness, staff performance and overall service was above 97 per cent.

But physical visits to libraries were down by 4.1 per cent despite library book issues being up two per cent for adults and seven per cent for children and young people.

Ms Shaw blamed that drop on the partial closure of the Foundry in Barrhead.

She continued: “The council commissioned an independent finance and business review of the Trust and a subsequent joint action plan is now being implemented.

“ERCLT will continue to self-evaluate its performance and take the necessary steps in partnership with the council to improve those areas identified for improvement above as part of its business planning process, particularly addressing the operating deficit.

“ERCLT is performing well, improving customer experiences, meeting its charitable objectives and is contributing to the health and wellbeing of the residents of East Renfrewshire.”

Ms Shaw added that since the establishment of the Trust, the council has saved £420,000 per year on non-domestic rates relief and VAT efficiencies.