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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Freedom of Information Request regarding Essex Record Office costs: Response to the Essex Society for Archaeology and History

The Essex Society for Archaeology and History has an enthusiasm for the understanding of the county's past so became concerned when it was announced that one of the jewels of archives, the Essex Record Office, faced cuts in service and an aim to 'break even' over the course of time.  The Society took the unusual step of making a Freedom of Information request to Essex County Council portfolio holders.  Here published is the response which will no doubt be of interest to our members but also members of the public who care about the facilities provided.


Essex County Council 
Cabinet Office 
PO Box 11 County Hall Chelmsford Essex CM1 1 LX 

Mr A Corder-Birch DL 
The Essex Society for Archaeology & History

Dear Mr Corder-Birch 

20 March 2017 

I understand that the formal response to your Freedom of Information (FOI) request has been sent to you today. 

However, I recognise that this response will raise as many questions as it provides answers. That is why I would have preferred to give the information within the context of a meeting, and why I hope now you will agree to have the conversation rather than engage in yet more correspondence. 

From my point of view there are several goals: 

1. To ensure that an excellent service continues to be available for the residents of Essex. 
2. To ensure that it is provided in the most cost effective way. Excellent services are worth paying for and my aspiration around "break even" is that there is sufficient demand, and that — where appropriate, not including legal obligation — each unit of service provision attracts income at least equivalent to its marginal cost; 
3. We retain commitment and expertise of our staff. 

I do hope to hear from you shortly with a view to arranging a meeting in County Hall. The contact number for my office is 03330 131026. 

Yours sincerely, 
Cllr-John Spence CBE DL 
Cabinet Member for Finance, Commercial, Traded Services, Housing and Planning. 

Freedom of Information Act / Environmental Information Regulations Request
Reference:    ECC2010920 02 17
Response:     17 March 2017

GIVE ESAH AN IDEA OF THE CURRENT RUNNING COSTS AND STAFFING LEVELS OF THE ERO IN ADVANCE OF PROPOSED
CHANGES:

I can confirm that Essex County Council does hold this information.
•           Running costs of ERO for 2016/17 are:
o          Staffing and activity costs: £   981,000
o          Building costs:                    £   538,000
o          Total:                                  £1,519,000


Question 2 -  What is the current income target (for 2016/17)

I can confirm that Essex County Council does hold this information. The current income target for 2016/17 is £700,000


Question 3 - What is the income to date (for 2016/17)

I can confirm that Essex County Council does hold this information.  Please see below:

·         To the end of January 2017, income for the financial year was £464,000
·         Our forecast for the full year to March 2017 is approximately £520,000
·         Clearly some of our ambitions have not been met as we go through the process of learning about the size and availability of markets, etc, and we will build this into our planning for future years.


Question 4 - PROJECTED 2020 RUNNING COSTS

I can confirm that Essex County Council does not hold this information. We are currently reviewing our future business plans, leading to a business case for internal review in the summer of 2017.


Question 5 - CURRENT STAFFING LEVELS?

I can confirm that Essex County Council does hold this information. Current staffing levels linked directly to delivery of the Archive Service are:
    • Archivists – collection management, accessions, research, client advice – 6.5 FTE (Full Time Equivalent)
    • Technical Specialists – digitisation, conservation and preservation, sound and video archive – 5 FTE
    • Public Service – ERO Searchroom, on-demand document production, front-line and on-line enquiries, reprographics, archive repository management, etc – 4 FTE
    • Events, outreach, education, marketing, etc – 3 FTE

In addition, providing associated services within the £ figures cited in ‘1’ and ‘2’, above
    • Duplicate Certificates service (ie birth, marriage and death certificates): 4 FTE
    • Conference centre, building operations and security: 3.5 FTE

We have recently reviewed the Searchroom public opening hours (with effect from April 2017) to reflect user demand and these have been publicised separately during February. We will continue to review our overall service delivery model, costs, efficiencies and resourcing as part of the future planning referred to in ‘4’, above



Question 6 - WILL THERE BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON ANY PLANS THAT AFFECT THE ERO?

I can confirm that Essex County Council does hold this information. Only when any plan is developed, following the internal review later this year, can we determine the need for public consultation. In that case we will, of course, engage key stakeholders such as Essex Society for Archaeology & History


Your Right to Know
Information Services
Essex County Council
Telephone: 08457 430430


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